For current posts, scroll down past artist's statement.

The Muse's Storage Box

The Muse's Storage Box
Copyright Diane Lou.

Alchemical Dreams and Disparate Realities

Rust and bones, broken toys and old text, game boards, gears and nests. Even as a child such odd, unwanted items evoked a pit-of-the-stomach response that bordered on exhilaration.
While I make no attempt to conjure up specific feelings in the viewer, the ambiguous juxtapositioning of familiar materials creates art that evokes half-forgotten, dream-like visions that beg to be interpreted by the viewer. There is a sense of deja vu (the already seen) tempered by a sense of jamais vu ( the never seen, or the illusion that the familiar does not seem familiar), and this contradiction asks the viewer to dig deeply, to look inside her own repository of wisdom, intuition and experience to find her own meaning in the familiar objects she sees.
The once-private discards of people's material lives that I collect for my art seem to carry universal memories with them, memories that can engage and mystify the viewer. Their beauty lies within the rust, the erosion, the wear, and the mere fact that they were once possessions.
I play with abandon and with no forethought. Each piece of detritus seems to suggest to me a relationship with some other piece, and I begin to put them together and wait for the mental "buzz" that lets me know I am proceeding as I should. Even at this point, I continue to remain in the play state and will not allow myself to direct the outcome of the piece, a process that requires complete trust. The outcome often mystifies me as much as it might any viewer.
Remember when, as a child, whatever was in reach became the instrument of your creative exploration? That is my life. A rusty, flattened piece of metal on the street, a gnawed bone by the roadside, a unique twisted branch from a tree, a fallen nest, a broken egg, a snake's skin, a dead butterfly...all will be added to my collection and eventually have their beauty honored in one of my pieces. The resulting art creates a new story with its own imagined history, one that invites the viewers to lay some claim on it by allowing themselves to be enveloped by the sight, the history, and the ambiguity of the realities before them.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Here we are, already at the end of 2009, a year, which for many of my friends, brought huge challenges in terms of their health, their jobs, their security.  Besides all that, many of us spent a year distressed by the complex issues our country has been involved in abroad.

On that note, may I recommend a must-read, "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson.  Although the title might not reveal much to you until you read it,  I consider it the most feel-good, amazing and inspiring book I have ever read...and it is a true story.  (And there is also a young readers' version, as well as a read-aloud version for smaller children.)

Many of you have probably already read it since it has been on the NY Times bestseller list for 3 years (and now the sequel, "Stones into Schools", is out).  It is the true story of Greg Mortenson, mountain climber turned humanitarian extraordinaire.  When he failed an attempt to climb K-2 which was intended to memorialize his sister who had died at 23, and he unexpectedly ended up lost in a remote Pakistan village, the course of his future was changed.  After the villagers took in the dirty lost American and fed him from their meager resources, he vowed to do something for them.  What they wanted most was a school, and the rest is history since many of the remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan wanted a school too.  He has risked his life repeatedly to fulfill these dreams, and the story reads like an action-packed novel as he built one school, then dozens of schools, and now well over 100 (with the emphasis on schooling females who have traditionally not been educated in these cultures).  And this is a man without resources of his own.

Read this book, and be inspired.  Read this book and understand the complexities of the Pakistan and Afghan cultures.  Rejoice in the fact that the US military consults with Greg Mortenson and that Three Cups of Tea is required reading for many military personnel who go into this region. 

After reading this book, I was so humbled that I vowed to find my own ways to help by donating a bit to the school-building (which is really the only way to fight radicalism in a country with nearly 90% illiteracy rate), and by finding my own service here at home.  Despite our interconnectedness through email, Facebook, etc, we need to remember that we are beings who learn from each other and help one another by being face to face, remembering the humanity of each other.  As Plato said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

On that note, I'm off to the studio which is now clean and organized.  Dear husband Nils cleaned the tool bench and pottery area after I got my uncontrolled section somewhat corralled.  A very good way to start the new year.  

My best to all of you. New art photos coming soon. Have a new year filled with peace, love, good health, and lots of art.

(Photo: Collage by Diane Lou, "Societe Anonyme".  Prints available.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy holidays, health and happiness...

Here we are nudging up to winter solstice ("the watershed of the year" as Vita Sackville-West called it).  A happy time for anyone who suffers through the short, dark, dreary days of winter each year.  Though there will be no noticeable difference for quite a while, the psychological difference is huge as I switch my attitude from desperation to optimism.  I can look at the weather website each day and watch as it announces that "tomorrow's daylight will be 3 minutes longer".  Cheers!

A walk to the garden today showed the devastation of our 8, 9 and 10 degree days that we had a week or so ago.  A few mixed Asian greens still show signs of life as does the Swiss chard.  Carrots still happily chill out in the soil, and just get better and better with the cold.
Now that I am recovered and feeling healthy and energetic, it's time to go clean up the rotting vegetation that succumbed to the cold.  

There's something hopeful about preparing the beds for spring planting, the earliest of which could be in 2-3 months.  The nearly 400 bulbs I planted are starting to send up their little green shoots, so the promise of bloom is already there.  Spring in the NW is so filled with abundance....of green, of brilliant color and sweet fragrance.  But winter is still in between....

Last year on this date, we had 26 inches a snow, a record, which kept us snowbound and without power for 10 days.  Trees broke and tumbled under the weight of the wet snow, power lines sagged and broke, and the roads were clogged with the debris of it all, making them impassible here in the woods.  Finally after 10 days as we ran out of firewood and food, we were finally able to get out of our remote location.  Good thing too because I ended up in the hospital the next day with a life-threatening emergency.  What a year it has been!

This is a full week of gatherings with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, and I'm grateful to be well and able to participate.

Here's a wish for our world...that we have peace, that people have jobs and homes and health, and that we learn to work together among ourselves here as well as in other lands to solve the many problems that affect our lives and our world.    

Happy holidays and a happy, creative year ahead to all of you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm back.... finally

After another little complication that put me back in the hospital the week of Thanksgiving, I think I am finally on my way.  I'm getting more energetic each day and feeling better.  Eating is becoming less of challenge, so all is going as it should.

We've had chilly days and nights with a rather brisk wind added into the mix, so just being outside isn't much fun.  But, I did get the last of tulips planted for spring bloom (over 375 bulbs will be showing off in a few months), cleaned out some of the garden, and have tried to spend a couple hours a day in the studio sorting and organizing.

Nils asked me how everything got so disorganized.  Well, I've been working in there for nearly 2 years now without a real complete cleaning....and I continue to bring things home that never quite get where they are supposed to.

It's rewarding though, to see those little 24-drawer units filling up things in one drawer and a label that actually reflects what is inside!  The best part is that all this scrounging and moving of things reminds me of all the great stuff I have to work with.  Currently I am only working with really small things, but soon I'll empty off the big shelf units and start from scratch there too.  

Today our tiny holiday tree tried to go up, but the tree stand was too big for it.  So tomorrow I'll get a smaller one when I head to Portland to spend the day with my twin daughters who will be 35 this week.

In 1968 my first husband and I married.   For some reason we took slides instead doing prints, and for all these 41 years, I have carried slides around with me.  A couple years ago I threw away a thousand or so....and today I did the rest, cutting it down to 250 which I will have put on a DVD for all family members.   And so will end the era of the slide.  Now for Nils's 1000's of slides....

I promise to get back to some posting and some new pictures now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Better every day...

My postings have been so sporadic during recovery, but I am feeling better and better, so expect things to return to normal soon.   Food finally sounds and tastes good, and my energy is starting to return (yes, I have walked down to the studio and back up the hill several times now), and I eagerly look forward to having the stamina to actually spend several hours in the studio.

What I really look forward to first though is looking through and reorganizing the "stuff" that I use to create my art.  I don't think I've actually shown you a picture of what that collection looks like, have I?  Well,  there are full shelves, as well as various boxes and Rubbermaids overflowing around on the floor that house my goodies.  While I feel it is essential to have a big assortment to draw from, there is a fine line between being inspired and being overwhelmed.  So, often sorting, reorganizing and just looking through everything is a great prelude to actually creating art.  Creative foreplay is how one artistic friend described it.

Not only do I forget what I have buried in the piles, but different things speak to me at different times.  Something that left me cold 6 months ago may create shock waves of excitement now.  Other pieces tell me, point blank, that they need to go in the outdoor, out-of-my-sight box because they doing nothing for me.  Some may even get donated back to the Goodwill bins.

I consider my art a process, and this is part of the process, the sorting and searching.  It is a time that allows my subconscious to play with what it is seeing, while my left brain thinks it is organizing.  Usually this time is followed by a huge creative burst of energy with numerous pieces coming into being quickly.

Creative block can hit us all, but if you can identify what process helps break that block, you are on your way to having control over it.  Whether it is cleaning your studio, sorting your stuff, doing a magazine photo collage, doodling, dancing, whatever mindless/thoughtless activity it is that frees you up, identify it as a major tool in your creative process and use it whenever needed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

San Francisco Show

I look out the window and see the fog nestled between the tall Douglas fir trees...and now the sun trying to cut through the fog.  Fall is definitely here.  The leaves have left the deciduous trees, so the landscape will be dominated by the evergreen forest for the coming months.

Recovery continues in fits and starts....a few good days, a few bad days.  I finally feel like I might be through the worst of it.  Eating is still the big challenge.  What can I eat that I can digest?  What holds any appeal at all? When will I be able to eat enough to not keep losing weight?  I'm sure it will all resolve in time.

Email this a.m. brought the good news that I had two pieces accepted into a show in San Francisco called ReVisions: New Creations from Scrap.  It is a recycle, upCycle, reUse show and I am thrilled to be included.  I pride myself on rescuing "junk" and turning it into art, and I love that there are so many other artists turning waste into everything from jewelry to furniture to clothing to household items.

The piece pictured above, "Sacrifice", is one of the pieces accepted.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Still in recovery mode...

While I optimistically thought I'd be a lot more up and about by this time (3 weeks after major surgery), it just isn't happening that way.  I'm still resting, reading and napping a lot, not going much of anywhere because it is simply too exhausting,  and mostly trying to find foods that hold any appeal for me and then agree with me after I eat them.  The joys of gastro-intestinal surgery.  So please bear with the lack of posts for a little longer.  I'll try to at least write something every few days.

Today Nils took my piece "The Secret" to Corvallis for the Shrines and Reliquaries show, while I (you guessed it) stayed home and napped and read.  I hope to be well enough to go see the show before it comes down the end of December.

(Moment #3, copyright Diane Lou.  5"x 2 1/2". Private collection of Marlene Ankeny.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

We're home...

I apologize for the empty period on the blog while I was hospitalized, but we came home on Thursday (could have Wednesday except that they couldn't find a pain med I could take at home that didn't nauseate me), so I'll be getting back into everything gradually.  Blogging is a great activity for recovery actually.  It doesn't take much energy at all, you get to put your thoughts down,  and later on, you can look back and see how spaced out on the pain meds you really were!
During the period when they kept trying oral pain meds on me, several induced hallucinations.
They were completely bizarre...some creative and some horrific. One was beyond wonderful.
I think I had mentioned that I was listening to a pre-surgery CD for about 2 weeks prior to surgery, and then again post surgery (it contained tracks for both).  It helped with pre-surgery anxiety, and then helps with healing afterwards. 
Anyway, listening to it in the hospital during my hallucination phase, I closed my eyes and suddenly I was about 60-80 feet above a stage looking down on a beautiful set of reds, blues and purples and a floor full of dancers in flowing costumes.  As the dancers moved, their motions created fractal-like designs, and the costumes  gradually changed colors as the background music on the CD changed (yes, all the choreography moved with the music on my healing CD). They had me on so many drugs at that point that my first thought was, "I didn't realize there was a video with this CD." (Funny....)
At that point I realized I was seeing my own response to the music and that my own brain had created the stage sets, costumes and complex choreography.  It was wonderful seeing it, and yet being awake enough to realize that.  I experimented to see if I could open my eyes and go back to it, and I could...and I could "fly" around to look at it from different perspectives.
I had 20 minutes of that, and it was pure pleasure.
Anyway, now we are home.  I am far exceeding any expectations the Dr's had of how I would feel (quite good), I am not in pain, I am relatively mentally clear (thanks to IV Vit C to clear anesthetic out of me after surgery) and I feel like my recovery has already moved way ahead.  The Dr saying I wouldn't feel like myself for 6 months, is not even close to reality.  In fact, later today I want to go check on the garden and studio, and see if I gained some new ideas for future work.
So glad to be back!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall and Flickr

Perfection...the fall we are being gifted with this year.  Day after day of sunny, clear, cool days with crisp, chilly nights. I'm delighting in  each one, wringing each moment dry.  In a few days, I'll be under the knife, and then, for a bit of time, I won't be running up and down the hill to check on the garden or to play in the studio.

Thankfully my dear friend Jan who helped me get through recovery (via email) from the last surgery (as she was recovering from her own) has helped me once again by introducing me to Flickr.
Yes, I'd gone there to view Jan's art but hadn't really considered becoming involved or posting my art until she nudged a little.
If you think Facebook is a time passer (think black hole), try Flickr.  There are hundreds of thousands if not millions (my guess) of pieces of art to look at and to leave comments on. Some
are mediocre, some excellent.  There are friends and contacts to make and to email. With it being an international art community,  I am now in contact with people from France, Germany, England and Nova Scotia as well as Portland...and that's in just two days!

Truly, what a gift right now.  Even while I am spending those days in the hospital, I can use my laptop and distract myself from tubes and discomfort and enter into a never-ending, ever-changing world of art!  Thanks, my dear friend.

P.S. My Flickr name is assemblageartist (can't believe no one had it). Jan's is akaLunaMoonbeam 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another piece....

Around the outer edge of the inner box is the following sentence, cut from words in a book:
"I cry in the time of the new moon, a roaring heart in the night season, my bones are like melted wax, and all I am poured out like water from my mother's breasts."
The pine needle nest has rusted nails protruding, and the pendulum does indeed swing.
(Mother's Milk, copyright Diane Lou.  Approximately 24x14x5")

The Secret

I have always loved shrines and reliquaries, and actually just love the words themselves.  They evoke something mystical, secretive and enticing...and they invite search and discovery.

In November and December, the Corvallis Art Center will have a show called Shrines and Reliquaries which I am happy to be a part of with this piece.  The box that became the reliquary was found on a good day at Goodwill.  This old black box with metal corner protectors and a replaced handle nearly flew off the shelves into my hands a few days after I found out about the show.  I knew immediately that this was the beginning of my piece.

It sat on my worktable for a week or two, open and in an upright position while I waited for inspiration.  The first thing that came to me was to divide the right hand side, so I cut a piece of foamcore and made a shelf.  The second thing was to use some frayed canvas with a transfer of old text on it as a background for the left side.  (Sorry, the detail is pretty limited in this photo).

From that point I started playing with the left side, using an old tintype, a small black box, some buttons, and other things.  The lower right meanwhile began filling with an assortment of torn letters/secrets, which were then rolled up, tied and glued into place (a source of huge frustration to many).  I like having the viewer so want to pull them out and open them up and read them.  It evokes an emotion similar to peeking into someone else's private things. Sort of scary and anxiety-producing, but very alluring too.

The top right filled with a favorite family photo of mine of my great grandparents, their homestead on the plains of Kansas, and a few of their 16 children.  The sense of desolation
in the photo (and the empathy I feel for my great-grandmother) have always been very powerful to me, and I have used the photo in several art pieces.  A bottle dangling in the center of the roof-like space holds another "secret" written in Braille. 

Another glorious fall day here.  I'm off to walk to the garden to see if it frosted there.  It was 34 this a.m. at the house.  Enjoy the day!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Drawer #7...or 280-285-290-295

As I prepare to go in for major surgery on the 16th, I find myself on a creative roll again (normal for this time of year...and no, I am not always in the mood to create art).  I have a couple shows I am jurying into, so have been eager to get some pieces done.

This piece, originally titled  A Book about Death (for the show of that name), has morphed some from when I first photographed it, into what you see here.  It is a piece filled with gifts from friends....the marvelous red drawer front and bone handle for the net from Deb, the dried roses from Marlene, the skull from Xena, and the rusty square behind the 7 ball is from Nils's old studio.  All is contained within a metal lid from a little trunk (19"x12"), and the ornate grillwork on the front is actually plastic (once part of a dollhouse) made to look like rusted metal using a metal rusting product.

It so satisfying when a piece finally says to me, "yes, I'm done, so now you can move on."  I have several more I am eager to show you in the days ahead.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

La Plage

On Friday, Nils and I took a mini-break to the coast, to Cannon Beach.  If you don't live around here, I'll just tell you that Cannon Beach is an appealing, adorable and artistic little beach town which has the added benefit of being right beside Haystack Rock, one of the largest monoliths in the world.  The rock sits just offshore, close enough to overwhelm you with its size and energy, and also close enough to walk to at low tide.

But I digress....On each trip I have made to Cannon Beach, I have had to stop and admire a building right on the main street that is whimsical, creative and looks sort of like a piece of my found object art grown to full size.  It looks as if it was built from all sorts of unusual pieces that were integrated into the building as they were found.  The exterior is weathered wood, ornate woodwork, shaped shingles, stained glass, odd window get the picture.  In a way, it looks like it grew there, and in a way it did.

The building is a studio/gallery but it has never been open when I have been there.  Saturday we lucked out and found the artist was having an opening that day.

It would have been a disappointment to walk in and find the inside nothing like the outside....or to find uninspired art inside...but it was anything but disappointing.  The tiny gallery/studio (about 10' wide and 20' long) was rustic wood inside too, and in the overhead rafter area, there were huge carved wooden supports.  A tiny loft was above the back part of the gallery, and there an Australian shepherd  watched the people below through the railing, and behind him was a tiny woodstove and a comfortable overstuffed chair.

The art on the walls was whimsical and fantastical, created by a man in his 70's with a gentle but self-assured manner. One painting was entitled, "The Floating Pirates", just to give you an idea of the type of thing he created.  The artist's son entered with two exquisitely detailed bronze creations of the father's.... fabulously playful jousting knights in armor on amazing horses...and the artist burst into a genuine smile.  He had not yet seen the creations fully cast and finished.

Then, as we were leaving, we spied the artist's "studio"...a 6x6' space in the corner with windows behind him.  Shelves holding brushes, colored pencils, and paints surrounded his chair at about elbow-length.  His work table was about 3' wide and only 18" deep, and it apparently swiveled out to let him into his tiny work space.  It was a picture of efficiency and of someone knowing exactly what he needed to do his art.

 We both walked out with smiles on our faces.  I realized that it is too seldom that we encounter such a cohesive and charming "package" in this world of too much, too new, too big, too commercial.  My hat is off to you, William Steidel.

(La Plage, copyright Diane Lou. )

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Several years ago when I lived in my little beach cottage on the Oregon coast (B.N.---before Nils came into my life), I was taking my almost daily beach walk when,  as I looked down the coastline, I saw something large on the beach.  As I got closer, I realized it was this magnificent sandcastle.  No one was around putting the finishing touches on...and no one was standing around admiring it, as I soon would be.  It was over 6' tall and enchanting in detail.  
The waves were beginning to erode the lower levels when I first saw it, and a sense of immediacy came over me.  I had to get a photo of this...but,  of course, my camera was safely at home several blocks away, and I had walked to the beach, not driven.  With adrenaline flowing, I walked as fast as I could back up the beach and the several blocks home, grabbed my camera and drove back to the beach access.  All that time, I feared a little boy like my grandson would take a big stick and feel compelled to smash the castle, or that the incoming waves would have caused it to dissolve back into granules of sand.
But when I returned all was still intact, the castle was being ignored by all but me, and I was able to shoot the many shots I wanted of this fabulous creation.  Later it would end up in several pieces of my collage La Mer.
(Photos and art by Diane Lou.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bears and bones...

If you have viewed much of my art, you'll notice I love bones and decaying things.  In fact, if I find a bone in the woods (or if dear friends find them for me), it makes my day because I know that, sooner or later, it will find its way into my art.

A few nights ago, we had gone into McMinnville to have dinner with friends and to hand off a copy of Nils's new book (See post below for description).  By the time we came home on our little narrow dirt road into the forest, it was quite dark.  As we rounded a corner, something large and white and something large and black were suddenly in front of us.

As often happens when we are confronted with something unexpected, it took a few seconds to realize what we were seeing.   But there it was, a huge stripped-of-meat rib cage (cow? elk?) being dragged across the road by a black bear who was barely visible in the surrounding blackness.

It was a rather surreal sight and certainly an unlikely sight, and how I wished I could have had a picture of it that actually captured it in the darkness.  I think you would have loved seeing it.

We haven't seen bear around for quite some time, although this spring when I was picking daffodils by the large pond, the tall grass was very trampled down...trampled by something heavy and broad, not something delicate like deer who usually frequent that area.  Now I suspect the bear inhabits the area because there is water and lots of room to roam unbothered through the forests.  Rather like feeling an earthquake, there is something exciting and wonderful mixed in with any fear that might arise, knowing that the bear is nearby.

No, fall isn't quite as "here" as the picture above suggests.  Last year was the most colorful fall ever, according to Nils, who has lived here 32 years...and this is just one of many of the magical photos he took last year.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Play Book is here...

The Play Book is finally here.  Nils's description of the book follows:

The Play Book, by Nils Lou,

ISBN 978-1-4269-1067-8, 120 pages, $20


"This a manual for connecting to the creative impulse by learning to play again.By re-learning to play an authentic connection is made and the mystery of creativity is exposed.

While play can be fun, it is serious business, and isn’t just for children. Play requires the same mindset for an adult as it did when you were a child. It is a state of opportunity with infinite possibilities. Real play has no rules. It allows all possibilities.

The play imperative is about jumpstarting our consciousness—by breaking the habit of ordinary, repetitive routines and introducing play as an essential nutrient for creative living. It is not goofing off. Play has the potential to shift our gears and engage the creative engine of life—to surprise us with unexpected answers to daily problems.

By learning how to play again and making playfulness a part of our conscious experience, life can change dramatically and creatively. Play is a fundamental state of being, crucial to creative awareness. Play power is a modulus for creativity, a gift that can be nurtured as a wonderful tool for opening the world of imagination.

The Play Book exposes common misconceptions about creativity—can we get it? Is it only for certain people? And, how can we let go of conventional, imitative ideas, and connect with fields of possibilities, where expectations are merely a point of departure? The play imperative is the latent child inhabiting our desire to make things. It’s about conjuring the unexpected—in business, in art, in the kitchen, or in life. Play is the prime lubricant.

This is for players. You were once a player, but now as an adult, play-time is perhaps only a memory. Play is a powerful tool for experiencing creative consciousness. It is a tool that can be accessed by anyone desiring an authentic experience—an opportunity to be connected to the energies that give us vitality, imagination, passion.

            The Play Book is set up to help by starting with some simple exercises designed to tune your body and mind to the idea of play. What exactly do you expect to happen? It’s not going to be an ordinary experience, so expect that it will be different." 

Available from or from us where the price is, as Nils puts it, "$18 signed, or $20 undamaged".

I share Nils's philosophy of playful creativity and it guides both of us in our art and our lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two years of joy...

Two years ago on Tuesday, my dear Nils and I got married in our backyard while 70 family members and friends wiped teary eyes (as did we).  Best "man" Vickie and "maid of honor" Ron stood by us as our dear friend Suzie read our beautiful ceremony and vows.

It was a whirlwind romance which started on January 12, 2007, when we met on a snowy corner in McMinnville. Little did I know how that moment would change my life.
We met via eHarmony, and were ultimately named eHarmony's Oregon couple of the year for 2007 based on the story of our romance, a story which, by the way, continues through every day of our lives.
After many years alone (16 for me, 7 for Nils) what a great gift to find a mate so loving, good, fun and compatible!  Here's hoping for many, many more years ahead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art and Soul Workshops not instead.

Crisp, sunny days with cool nights, cool enough enough to warrant flannel sheets again.  Going into my favorite time of year (if it just didn't lead into winter), I'm sorry to say I have had to cancel out of my Art and Soul workshops for this year.   I found out I have to have major surgery on October 16th, and so in order to stay healthy for this 12 hour surgery I have to avoid things like being in a hotel with about 500 people in various stages of wellness and illness. 

My sincerest apologies to those I have disappointed by not being there to teach you.  But honestly, all of my life I have put the needs of others first, and this time I have to think of me first and concentrate on being well so I can be there next year...and create a DVD of my class...and write a screenplay...and a book...and do more art...and learn to play golf (even though I'm not sure life is long enough to do that)...and enjoy my wonderful husband, kids and grandkids...and garden...and get better at yoga...and...and...and...  I just can't wait to have this surgery and recovery behind me so I can get back at all the things I love to do.

Many have sent their prayers/good wishes/healing thoughts/entreaties to the Universe.  Thank you, I'll take all of them in any form and use them to energize my time of healing.  I'm using this time to listen to my guided visualization pre-surgery CD, to rest, to enjoy a few more weeks of being outside before the long recuperation and to mentally prepare for what is ahead.  My dear husband Nils is my rock.  He is supportive, encouraging and completely here for me, and keeps me grounded on the days I soar into the realm of worry and panic.  Thanks, dear!

Thanks to everyone for being understanding.   I'll be back, better than ever!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Art and Soul workshops coming soon!

Preparing for the 3 workshops I'll teach at Art and Soul in Portland at the end of the month is taking up much of my time.  But it is a fun process that culminates in meeting many new people and seeing old friends, and teaching people new creative processes, which I love.
The Transfers and Transparencies workshop is one I have taught now for...hmmm... how many?...probably 4 years now.  It always fills even if we have 3 sessions of it, as we did last year.  If you are signed up, rest assured you will not fall asleep, even though it is in the evening, as the class is engaging and active from beginning to end.
The other workshop I am teaching is Dumpster Diving Assemblage, a found object art workshop.  I've had fun sorting through all of personally collected goodies to fill Rubbermaids full of "stuff" for my students to choose from.  
I'll be posting this week on the Art and Soul Yahoo! group asking for helpers for both classes.  So if you are attending Art and Soul, but didn't get into my classes before they filled, this is the next best thing.  You can help during the class, and you get all the info and materials the class attendees get.  Usually I turn people away because so many want to participate, so if you are interested, email me (see sidebar where it says Email Me).  Thanks!
(At Least Not For Me, copyright 2005 by Diane Lou.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A creative solution....

In my previous post, I mentioned the sloping weedy area beside the vegetable garden as well as the desire for a flower bed.  Here's the solution.  First I covered the area with 25 year ground cover cloth (weed barrier), leaving plenty to pull up behind what you see above (That's it behind the steel).  

In looking for something for a retaining wall, I found these laser-cut steel  sheets (2x6') down in the old studio. When the sheet metal company cuts out multiple items for a certain purpose, these are the leftovers.  Nils got them free years ago and we have lots of them in different patterns, the pattern being determined by what it cut from them.  I find them intriguing and wonderful.

We simply supported them with rebar driven into the ground a couple feet, pulled the ground cover cloth up behind and back filled with good soil.  We then topped it off with a 2x6" with a groove sawn into it which fit along the top of the steel to hold it together.

The back-filled area is about 30'x4' and is now filled with newly planted perennials and underplanted with 300 bulbs which should be glorious in spring.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The fall garden

This year's garden has been the garden everyone wants but seldom gets.  Everything grew perfectly and lushly, tasted like heaven, and was breathtakingly beautiful.  This photo was taken yesterday and shows the lush, huge parts of the garden, as well as those areas that have been replanted with new fall plantings of cool weather crops that can tolerate chilly nights and still thrive.  It has been pure joy to watch and nurture it each day, and to enjoy the endless bounty that came from a few packages of seed.  

The area right beside the garden, the area that slopes down towards the studio you see in the background was a weed patch filled with thistles and all sorts of obnoxious things.  When daughter Lenka came to visit, we did a day of marathon weeding around here and that was one of the areas we tackled.  She is an amazing worker!  Once we had that area beside the garden weeded, I vowed not to let it get away from me again.  I put that thought together with the thought that I had really missed having a big flower bed this year to cut bouquets from, and, in the next day or so, you'll see the end result of those thoughts and the creative (and free) solution to the situation.

The completed mural

                                                                      Mural detail.

Here's an aerial view of our finished 6x9' clay mural.  This is the raw state....before firing, which will happen in the East Creek anagama in our fall firing.  The mural will grace a prepared wall on the back side of our house. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Book About Death

Starting September 10th,  the Emily Harvey Foundation in New York will be exhibiting the work of numerous artists in a show called A Book About Death.   Artists send in 500 postcards with their work pictured on them, and these are placed around the gallery.  Viewers can pick up one of each card and leave with their own unbound book about death.  There will also be a mosaic-like presentation of all the cards on the wall. 

One of each card will held in the Emily Harvey Foundation permanent collection, as well as in Cecil Touchon's Collage Museum. 

Above is a picture of the assemblage I created for my cards.  And there's that wonderful raccoon skull that was given to me a while back....a timely acquisition.  You can view many more of the submissions by going to :

(Death Mask, copyright Diane Lou 2009.  Size  14"x22"x4". Photo by Diane Lou.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The mural continues....

This is a detail of the mural as we continue on our creative journey of slapping on clay, scraping it off, and gouging, scoring and manipulating it.  I think another day or two of working on it will bring it to a point where we are happy to consider it complete.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Clay mural beginnings...

Pictured above is the start of our large clay mural for a wall on the outside of the house.  Nils and I have 2 large tables pushed together and covered in heavy-duty black plastic, which serves a couple purposes.  The first, of course, is to keep the clay from sticking to the tables.  The second, and much more important one, is so that when we cut the big clay slab into tile sizes for firing, the knife will leave a mark on the black plastic.  Then, if a piece gets broken in one of the two firings, we have a template for its exact size when wet.  For those who aren't familiar with claywork, the clay will shrink about 12% during drying and its two firings, and it is very hard to make a replacement if you don't know the original size.  

At the stage pictured above, we have made a series of slabs of clay to cover the 9x6' space.  This is our background.  We are just starting to add texture as we join the slabs together.  From here, we'll keep adding clay, dimension and texture.

Because of our shared philosophy of creating from a standpoint of play, we have no preconceived idea about where the mural is going.  We just keep playing with it and waiting to see where it will end up, and when that moment will come that says "finished".  We both work on all areas of the mural, so it doesn't look like two separate people's work.  In this kind of collaboration, the artist must let go of his ego and his attachment to his work to free the other person to come and wipe away what was just put down.  

 One of the biggest limitations in art is the attachment to the "precious".  Often we think something is so wonderful, we cannot bear to eradicate or change it, and right there the creative process ends. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A trip to the bins...

Last week Nils had an appointment in Portland so I opted to go along.  Since we were on the east side of town, I thought a trip to the eastside Goodwill bins would be a fun diversion.  Besides, my favorite shopping spot, the westside bins, had recently been a disappointment.

For those of you who don't know what "the bins" are, they are the end of the line.  Here are the donated things that are not good enough for a Goodwill store, the things that don't sell in their alloted time in the Goodwill store, and sometimes just an overflow of donations.  Things are tossed into "bins" (large 4x8' bins on rollers) with some weak attempt at organization.  Books will be in their own bins, shoes & clothing will be too.  Electronics are mostly separated, and the rest just gets tossed in.  So you may find a wig, a plate, a purse, a catcher's mask, a doll, a stapler, an old record and a rusty hammer, all in the same bin, along with dozens and dozens of other things.  The hunt is the fun part because you never know what you may find.

 But I digress...When we walked into the office/studio of the practitioner he was visiting, I was immediately in heaven.  Bones, skulls, feathers, wings,!  (Those were for her art, not her practice.)  While Nils had his treatment, I was told to wander and lust after things...which I did.  I was rewarded with a raccoon skull....perfect!

For my found object work, much of what I love to use is too ratty or old to even be found in a regular Goodwill store.  Most garage and estate sales will have tossed into the dumpster the things I like most, so at times, it becomes problematic to find the low-caliber, well-worn, even possibly broken things that evoke emotions in me.  But the eastside bins did not disappoint!  There was an old catcher's mask (wonderful!...and I'm thinking it might go with the raccoon skull), metal parts and pieces some of which were already rusty, a mah jong game with lots of pieces, turned wood pieces and knobs, metal knobs, some wooden boxes that will provide the habitat for future pieces and a wealth of other goodies.  Where else can you spend 2 hours shopping (actually, rummaging), enjoy the hunt, and walk away with 2 carts full of creative possibilities for around $50? A fun day indeed!

(Photo: 111, copyright by Diane Lou 2008.  14"x14". Photo by Nils Lou.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brittany's wedding

This evening we'll be attending the wedding of a lovely young couple, Brittany and Ben. We joke that Nils has known Brittany from womb to wedding because Britt's parents, Cindy and Don, have been Nils's friends since before Britt was born. Consequently, Britt started coming to the anagama firings as an infant (if you don't count being here while in the womb) and has continued to come all these years. As a young girl, she was already directing firings, telling experienced potters when to put in wood. It was obviously built into her DNA coming from potter parents.

When she was a pre-teen, she wrote an article that was published in Ceramics Monthly magazine about the anagama firings and what it was like growing up around that. She rated the most important things in her life as God, family and Nils. Nils has been like an honorary grandfather to her.

Britt lights up whatever space on earth she enters with her radiant smile, sparkling eyes, ready laugh and sense of humor. She is loving and good, and Ben couldn't be a more fortunate man. I've only known Brittany a couple years (since meeting Nils) but I love her, no doubt about it. Oops, I can tell I'm going to need to bring tissues this evening.

(Anagama firing photo courtesy of Cindy H.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Show Review

As I prepare to take down my show at NW Wine on Thursday, I'd like to share a review of it that I just came across. Hope you enjoy it. Go to: to read the full review. Here's a little preview from the reviewer: "My internal monologue went a bit like this: "these are great! I love them! ... why do I bother making assemblages? ...well, it's a relief in a way, because here's someone who can do it for me. ... I wonder if she's a student... I bet she's like 19. Rr."
Well, she's not 19, she's older than me, and her work is an inspiration to make art instead of think about it!"

(Photo: Done, copyright by Diane Lou 2009. 24"x 14"Photo by Nils Lou.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Evolution #2

At the Goodwill "bins" (the end of the line before the landfill), I once found an old wooden duck decoy. I'm not sure if it was really old or if it was simply a decorative piece that had been made to look that way. It sat around in the studio for quite some time, and I had trouble getting past its "duckness". So I used the chop saw to decapitate it. There's something about destroying an object that suddenly reveals endless creative possibilities.

The thought of a new head led me to a porcelain one I had....and well, perhaps she needed feet too, just not real about furniture casters. Hmmmm.....she seems like some weird hybridized creature, so maybe she needs an ID # on her side and a nest to hold the eggs of her even weirder offspring. And so it goes... Usually there is a moment that opens the door to endless possibilities, and the getting rid of the head (which ended up on another piece) was that moment.

Keith LoBue (see his blog in my favorites list) always speaks about getting past the "preciousness" of your "stuff". You like it so much you cannot imagine destroying it or changing it...or sometimes, even using it! Sometimes I'll take a hammer to something just to get past what it is and to reveal the interesting shapes and pieces that comprise it. I've even started using some original photos because I think it is better that they are "out there" in the art, rather than being stored in a forgotten box or photo album.

Pull out your stash of stuff and start using it!
(Photo, Evolution#2, copyright 2008 by Diane Lou. Photo by Nils Lou.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dumpster diving

July continues to be a month of construction dust and noise, and so I find myself leaning more and more towards getting back in the studio, which, in turn, leads to the urge to find new goodies. Yesterday a garage sale yielded lots of lovely cigar boxes, some wood, some paper-covered wood, which will be fun to use myself or in my classes in September and October. But my favorite find there was a big bag of old croquet balls....yum!

Besides teaching 3 workshops at Art and Soul this fall (2 sessions of Transfers and Transparencies and one of Dumpster Diving Assemblage, I'll be teaching at my favorite-ever retreat center, Menucha, in the Columbia River gorge. That workshop will be with a group of high school art students which was organized by their wonderful teacher, Amy, who often brings her students out for our anagama kiln firings. I can't wait. Fall at Menucha is such a treat in its own right, but being able to teach there and be with young people...well, perfect.

Since being with Nils, I've spent more and more time around college and high school aged students (because of his college teaching and because of high schoolers coming out for the firings), and I must say, the ones I've come in contact with are so much fun! They are lively, friendly, hard-working, creative, eager to learn, helpful and courteous. Great kids all...

Banana bread is in the oven on this overcast, high 60's day, the hummers are feeding, and soon I'll start cleaning the garage (because of a too-long-to-tell and too-hard-to-explain reason related to the upgrades on the house). It will be lovely when all this work is done and everything put back where it is supposed to be.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer flying....

A heat wave has hit us...90's in the valley, slightly cooler here at our higher, tree-covered elevation. But we are off to the golf course (are we insane?). I have a lesson at 2 on the wide-open driving range, then we'll play. Makes me hot to think of it, but I do like to play....

I must apologize for being so lax in posting these last few weeks. It seems the sweetness of summer, having Nils off from teaching, lovely weather, and just feeling good have allowed me to pull back a bit and just relax into relative laziness. Watering the garden and landscaping, stepping around the guys doing work on the house, harvesting produce, starting to putter in the studio again.

I had been longing for new "stuff" for my art, even though I have a lot by most anyone's standards. Last Saturday I trekked from garage sale to garage sale, looking quickly over tables of glassware, kids' toys, things bought from TV ads still in their boxes, in search of treasure. And treasure I did find. A box of rusted steel traps, a box of chandelier crystals, lots of chains from jewelry, a wooden box with a glass door, a box full of wooden furniture legs and more. None seem especially spectacular on their own, but combined with things I already have, they hold promise.

As so often happens after a dry spell of artistic inactivity, I start feeling something akin to anxiety and know that soon I'll be creating again. There's a stirring in my gut that I've learned to recognize. Then, most likely, I'll create lots of pieces in a short period of time....then be done again. I'm ready for it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A clear view...

A few weeks ago we decided to replace many of the older windows in our house with energy efficient ones. We hired our studio builder and crew to do the work which was estimated at 4-5 days. Like any upgrade or remodel, especially on a 32-year-old house, one thing led to another and now we are having fascia boards replaced, one deck redone and...and...and....

As almost every room in the house will be affected by some part of the upgrade and the accompanying dust and mess, we are looking forward to a deep cleaning of the house afterwards, a repainting of some walls, and so, an opportunity to hang new art and create a whole new fresh look. Last year we completely re-did the two upstairs bedrooms and were delighted with the outcome. Now for the rest of the house...or at least, much of the house.

Shaking things up a bit feels good right now. I have a very low tolerance for boredom or routine, and start to get antsy when life doesn't seem to have enough variety.

We're having gorgeous summery days, and are enjoying lots of opportunities to play golf, be outside, garden and do home projects. I haven't done any studio work, but will soon...I feel that urge coming on again. I've finally learned to just wait for it to come rather than to try to push through it. Ahh, patience....

My show at NW Wine will be down soon (next week), so if you haven't had a chance to view it, please stop by.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New things...

Days have been overcast alternating with sun, in the high 60's or low 70's, perfect really. Not summer as many people think of it, but great for Oregonians. The garden is thriving and, thankfully, my golf game is improving. I started playing (trying to play, I should say) last summer, and it was the most frustrating thing I had ever tried. This year I started with a few lessons with a pro which have made a huge difference and moved me forward enough that I can go play 9 holes with Nils without being nearly in tears. There has been enough improvement that I have gone from just wishing I could be a mediocre player (a big improvement from where I was) to deciding I want to be a good player (that competitive nature in me coming out). I hit 100 balls whenever I can and now that I am seeing the difference it makes (and how much better my body feels), I am even more motivated.

It's been another big life lesson for me too. Learning something new in our later years is something we sometimes resist, but it is such a positive thing. Whether it is something physical, with the added benefit of strengthening our bodies and making us feel younger and healthier, or something mental like learning a new language, or opening up to our creative side, we come out better on the other side. And all become slightly become eager to get stronger, eager to challenge your mind more, or eager to express yourself, or all.

A Portland writer challenged himself to do something new every day for one year. And he did it and documented it in his blog.
He decided his life needed a freshening up, and I think this did it for him. It was a huge commitment, more than most of would want to do or have time to do, but we can all commit to learning one new thing, or doing something we've never thought we could do, and it gives us a bit of a rebirth and a new thrill about life. I have friends who have started piano lessons or painting or studying Mandarin in their 70's. It's never too late!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Transfers and Transparencies

Due to requests from students and prospective students of my Transfers and Transparencies workshops at Art and Soul in Portland in fall of this year, I've started another blog devoted to showing images of the art that I have created using the techniques I will teach in this workshop. Please visit to see my collages at or register for one of the 3 remaining spots at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Finding a piece of rusted-out metal roofing was the beginning of this piece. Its irregular shape and aged patina called out to me, but, as always, I had no idea what I would do with it or where it would go.

A year or so ago I had acquired some metal boxes which resembled treasure chests that were made of metal and finished to somewhat resemble aged copper. I took the lid off one, put a hanger on the back, set the rusty metal roofing inside and looked at it for a good long while. Because I so like having the viewer have to peer through layers, soon a weathered piece of wooden garden bed edging was placed in front. Next an antique document was glued in the back, and, spaced out from the back, some blue-copper colored printed paper was mounted on mat board and put in. If you look carefully, you can also see a woman's face looking back at you through the the opening in the metal. There is more to see in this, which you cannot see in such a small antique bottle with a woman inside and the word "speak".

The ball on top was a plastic toy ball which I covered with printed tissue paper and mounted using part of a lamp. The distressed copper-colored metal strips (across the wood and at the bottom) I "appropriated" from some old things my husband had. Great color and lots of wonderful aging, rust, scratches...all make it interesting.

This is one of my husband's favorites and once my show comes down at the end of June, it will go back up in the entryway of our home.

(Speak, copyright 2009 by Diane Lou. 20"x11". Photo by Nils Lou)

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Studio

The studio resides at the end of the footpath pictured in the previous post. On our land, this is really the only semi-level, un-tree-covered space...and it is relatively close to the house, just down the hill. It was as if it had been sitting there all these years just waiting. The clear area you see to the right of the building is where our garden now sits...again on the relatively level, fully-sun-exposed site...a site just sitting there all these years waiting.

The building is sheathed in green metal siding, siding that led to a serendipitous creative discovery. After the building was built (with much of the building going on through a very, very wet winter), we found muddy handprints all over the exterior. Since the builders were deep in mud much of the time they were building, it was not surprising. What was surprising was that the mud would not wash off! I used the power washer with detergent...then used a long-handled scrub brush prior to power washing again...then did it all again...and still a residue of the mud remained on the impervious metal siding.

We decided we had some very special clay here, and first fired a brick of it in the anagama kiln. It stood up to the 2400 degree temps without melting into a puddle, and came out with a metallic black finish. Then Nils decided to use the clay in some painting/drawings he was doing. He'd make various dilutions of the clay (slip), pour it across the canvas, then pour water or more diluted slip across that. When it was all dry, he would start drawing onto the surface with charcoal and conte crayon, and wait to see what would evolve. It has proved to be an amazingly evocative medium, with some wonderful clay paintings as the end result.

We now also use this mud/clay/slip as a decoration on pots. Depending on the density of the slip, the color that results can be anywhere from almost orange-ish stain to a deep, metallic black. The effect is wonderful and all the more special because it came right from our own backyard, and was discovered only because we were curious enough to experiment with it to find its potential use. Life's full of lovely little surprises if we remember to watch for them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The path to the studio

When Nils and I met in January 2007, the only studio on the property was a very large damp and dark one which didn't inspire creativity except on the best of summer days when the doors could be open and the sunlight would filter in through the skylights. By mid-summer we had decided we needed a warm, light studio for both of us...and that we wanted to get married.

We staked out the size of the building (a little over 1000 sq ft), called an excavator and had the ground leveled three days before the wedding (September 2007). It made a perfect parking lot just down the hill from the house. A few guests commented, "My, you went to a lot of trouble and expense to create a parking lot!"...but of course, 3 days later the foundation crew had arrived and work began in earnest. By early Feb 2008, the studio was finished and we had moved in.

It's been a heavenly space for us to share. An area for the potter's wheel, Nils's painting and drawing area, my mixed media area, a tool area, a sink, and a space for the kiln just outside the door...and now a garden just outside the other door. The interior is all white with high walls perfect for hanging up lots of finished art. It is all heated with radiant-floor heating which makes it cozy any time of year.

We had young potter friends Jim and Matt put in steps down the hill through the woods so we could easily walk to the studio. Creative spirits that they both are, they took it a step further and crafted a small footbridge over a depression in the walkway, and created a dry streambed under it. A small shrine made from an old rotten log and a stacked rock sculpture, both of which make the path even more special, were additional gifts from Jim. A couple of Nils's sculptures also enhance the walkway.

Their creativity inspired us to rummage through our stash of driftwood, select 8 or 10 pieces, and, armed with an electric drill and some very long screws, create the railing you see pictured.

The path is the perfect transition zone from the "real" world to the zone of creativity in the studio, and every time I walk down or up, I think of Jim and Matt and how creative people can always take a rather ho-hum project to a level of inspiration and beauty.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gardening continued...then back to art

Following a couple inquiries from viewers of this blog, I thought I should clarify that my method of gardening is called French intensive gardening. It allows a huge amount of food to be grown in a relatively small space. It is most often done in raised beds with excellent soil....loose, rich and well-drained soil. Often the rows are only 4-6 inches apart, but by planting early season crops like spinach, radishes and lettuce next to later maturing crops, it works. When high summer hits, the early season crops will be going to seed or far past their prime and can be pulled out, making additional room for the mid- to late season crops to mature. Then in late July, when it is time to plant the vegies for late fall harvest, other things will have finished their cycle, freeing up room again.

In fall, when frosty nights occasionally happen,I'll put hoops covered with plastic over the beds, creating mini-greenhouses which will be used again in early spring to get a jump on the gardening season.

With slightly cooler weather in the forecast, perhaps I won't be spending my days watering, and will have time to get back into the studio. I'm looking forward to the 13th and going to community garage sales in Wilsonville with my sister. New goodies for art, I hope!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Our new garden. I'm so glad we put down 2 layers of weed-barrier cloth under those bark weeding. It's a great joy having a vegie garden after all these years of having no space for one (and living on the coast where it is too cool for many things to grow well).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moving towards summer...

This morning Nils will attend the commencement ceremonies at  Linfield, and then another term will be behind us.  As we move towards this luxurious time of summer, the wisteria on the back deck are breathtaking, but fleeting with our unusually warm spring weather.  It is seldom that this time of year would bring us day after day in the 80's, so the azaleas, rhodies and all the other glorious spring blooms are even more treasured.  I didn't even have time to pick a bouquet of lilacs before they were withered and dry. 

But the heat and sun have been a shortcut to garden success, and never, in a lifetime of gardening, have I seen such a picture-perfect vegetable garden.  Everything is super-sized, perfect and delicious, and we look forward to months of home-grown organic food.  Fortunately we built a 7 foot tall deer-proof (we hope) fence around the garden as yesterday I spotted a doe with a very newborn fawn by her side.  After watching deer all my life, I am still always delighted by the fragile beauty and vulnerable charm of the fawns while being amazed by their strength as they run full speed through the forest to keep up with their mothers. 

Summer will bring more time in the studio again, and we both look forward to creating new bodies of work.  Also on the agenda is creating a clay mural for the side of the house, which we will do collaboratively.  My blog will follow the whole process of that creation.

Summer will also bring photos of the studio and some step-by-step views into the process that allows me to create my assemblage pieces (as well as glimpses into the cluttered world that is my half of the studio!).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Show opening

Wednesday night, NW Wines, show opening.  It is always revealing to me to hear people's comments about my work.  It seems I can do the visual part, but even though I am a writer, I cannot seem to verbalize much about what I feel about my work.  John G. called the show "bloody brilliant".  Another viewer called the pieces "springboards to remembering and imagining".  One woman called it "dreamlike and full of mysterious archetypes".  Others commented on the architectural quality when viewed from a distance (yes, I love rooflines and house shapes), then being attracted as they came closer by things that looked familiar to them.  Finally, when viewing up close, the mysteries of the pieces started to reveal themselves as they saw the strange uses of those same familiar objects.

It was a great evening, gathering with friends and college students (and their interest in my work is especially appreciated) as well as strangers who happened to drop by.  Luke Zimmerman's big paintings downstairs captivated viewers too.  Luke had a paper beneath each painting asking for suggestions for titles.  A great way to engage onlookers more fully!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ffotoggraffi & syzygy

Syzygy and ffotoggraffi....Those two shop names should give you an indication of what a cute little town Manzanita is.  Home of the Trash Art Show and Cart'M recycling center, it is an appealing and trendy little (very little) coastal town with interesting shops and eateries.

The Trash Bash, which was the name of the opening for the Trash Art show, throbbed with live music.  The perfect weather made it all even more festive.  A look inside at the art showed everything from  a resting horse made of old fencing wire to a "painting" which was actually a very weathered piece of plywood, once painted, which had ridden the waves of the ocean for a long time. Truly found art.  There was rusty metal sculpture as well as several permanently decorated cars and much more.

Here, it is among the most beautiful springs I can recall....a true spring, not an extension of endless winter rain, cold and dreariness, but one of warm days, cool nights, showers and sun.  The dogwoods are floating their palm-sized flowers throughout the woods, and their currently leafless branches make the flowers seem unsupported, adding to their dramatic effect.   Fragrant lilacs are blooming as are the breathtaking rhododendron, wisteria and azaleas.  Color and scent are everywhere.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Repurpose on Purpose

This  is the weekend for the Trash Art Show and Trash Bash at Manzanita.  In its 11th year, this great fundraiser draws in huge crowds of locals and tourists alike.  The recycling center there, which sponsors the event, is a non-profit run to a large extent by volunteers. The show is a great way to promote recycling and the arts...and raise money for a good cause.

When I was in Manzanita last week, I saw an amazing dress a woman had made for the show last year....knitted from unraveled cassette tapes (if you are old enough to remember what cassette tapes are).

Our local landfill/recycling center sends out a small newspaper with tips for "repurposing", as well as where to get rid of almost anything you can think of.  They had a great column recently, aimed at kids but perfect for artists least found-object artists.

Their list included such tips as:
~Keep a "possibilities" box to hold items no longer used for their original purpose, or things that are broken.
~Encourage your friends to keep a "possibilities" box so you can have a party and share each other's items.
~Think of as many uses as you can for each item.
~Take things apart to see what interesting pieces and shapes are inside.
~Mix items that may not seem to go together and create something new.

I couldn't help but think a found-object artist had written that list.
Have a beautiful weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Last summer we enjoyed watching a doe, her yearling buck son and her new fawn  living in the forest.  They would often lie down to rest near the goldfish pond, and I'd be startled on my way to feed the fish as my eyes suddenly picked them out of the woodsy camouflage.  As fall came, I thought it unusual that a mother would let her yearling buck remain in the family, but she did.

Hunting season came and during doe season we saw the remains of a fresh carcass dumped on our property, and the same day saw a fawn running frantically back and forth in the area.  I couldn't imagine how the fawn could survive the winter alone being so young.

Although I have no idea what did happen to the fawn or if it was "our" doe who was killed, I made this piece of weathered bones at the time and I'm sure I was influenced by the sadness I felt about the incident.

The bones came from friend Deb's son, who collected them from their woods.  They are nestled into forest leaves and lichens inside the old nativity-scene box.  Each bone has a stamped number attached, like a forensics or biology person might use to identify each one.  Melted candles, a brass bell and an curly bit of decorative iron on the front, reminiscent of a cemetery entry gate, finish the piece.  The silver trim is from a disassembled Mexican piece.

(Photo: Requiem, copyright 2008 by Diane Lou.  18x11x7".  Photo by Nils Lou)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Serendipitous art...

 This piece, titled  Frustration, is a perfect example of what I call serendipitous art.  

One day, in a half-hearted attempt to clean off my work table, I came across a couple brushes that had dried paint in them, and decided to try out the new brush cleaning compound I had purchased (which does work, by the way).  The old brush snapped while I was scrubbing it, and I turned and tossed it back on the table (surprisingly not in the trash) and turned my attention to brush #2.

Later when I walked by the table, I saw where the brush had landed.  Just as you see it, in a very old, much-used watercolor paint tray. 

I thought it had potential and fastened the paint tray into a black wooden box, and set about to "improve" on it.  I fussed with it off and on for a few days, trying various bit and pieces out, and finally decided it was perfect just the way it was, and that anything I added simply detracted. 

A little lesson in "seeing" and in knowing that simple can also be effective.

(Frustration, copyright 2008 by Diane Lou.  Private collection of Suzie Wolfer.  Photo by Nils Lou.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Trash Bash

Recent spring rains have deluged the forest with the needed moisture to ensure Oregon's notorious green, evidenced by the photo at left.  This is a very large bowl (about 3-4' in diameter) made many, many years ago by my husband Nils.  It sits in the forest near our home, and is now beautifully decorated with the moss that has grown on it as it rests on an enormous rotting stump.  

Tuesday my show was hung in the upstairs gallery at NW Wine (326 NW Davis, McMinnville, OR.  Phone 503-435-1295 for hours).   It will be up through May and part of June, and the opening is the 20th.  The downstairs gallery will feature Luke Zimmerman's wonderful paintings.

I'm mildly surprised by how delighted I am to have all these pieces out of my studio, and to have a huge blank wall to hang new pieces on as I work on them.  Freeing up that space seemed to create a vacancy that immediately wanted to be filled with new work.  

Another thing I did yesterday was to sort and go through my collection of "stuff" that I use in my art.  Over time, I forget what I have (and the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind" certainly applies here), and sorting and reorganizing makes it seem like I have a whole new stash.  I cannot put everything into Rubbermaids, label them and put them on shelves.  Things have to be open to viewing...and if they are in Rubbermaids, the lids have to be off so I can readily see and dig.

Speaking of a trash stash, in Manzanita there is a great recycling facility called Cart'M.  Besides recycling, there is a thrift shop there, and also an area where metal items are dumped.  From that area it is possible to purchase old rusty, wonderful things for pennies...all the stuff I love to use in my art.

Anyway, Cart'M has an annual Trash Art Show, kicked off with a Trash Bash which includes food, music and the opening on Friday night (next week).  All art must be made from recycled materials, and will hang until Sunday noon.  It's going to be great fun to see all the found object art in one place.  Go to if you are interested in entering.  

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I have been offered an opportunity to show my work at the upstairs gallery at NW Wine.  It will be the perfect setting for my small, intimate pieces which invite the viewer to move in for a closer look.
The opening is May 20, I believe...definite time and date later.  The hanging is this week so part of the weekend will be spent preparing for that...checking hanging wires and printing labels.  I hope you can come see the work in person once it is up.

This little piece is called The Doorkeeper.  Created from an old red book cover, a scraped and aged checkerboard, part of a picture frame, as well as little detail pieces, the cut-out words on The Doorkeeper read "Witness as the doorkeeper with a proud heart kisses the dark moon."

I love cutting words from old books, shuffling them around on a table, then putting them back together into phrases/poetry/or whatever you want to call it.  This process calls up something different in the mind than sitting down to write on the computer or with pen and paper in hand, and is very stress-free and playful. You will write things you never thought you could!

(Photo: The Doorkeeper, copyright 2008 by Diane Lou.  12x15" Photo by Nils Lou)