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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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spring color...

Yes, I isn't officially spring yet, but the scenery could have fooled me. The flowering cherry and plum trees are in bloom, the crocus and daffodils are everywhere, and today, I saw my first rhododendron and azalea in bloom! The glorious, unseasonably wonderful weather we are having has all of us in a high mood, ready for it to just stay on and on and on....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Anagama...25 years of fire

As we move closer to the 25th anniversary firing of the anagama, the days get fuller and fuller! To back up a bit, in case you haven't read all the old posts, 25 years ago Nils decided to have a replica of an 8th century Korean anagama kiln built on the property. Designed by Katsuyuki Sakasume, the kiln is a wood-fired hill-climbing kiln which uses 6 cords of wood for a firing, with 24-hour-a-day stoking for 3-4 days. It can hold 300-500 pots, and requires a week to cool.

The last weekend of February we'll be loading this special commemorative firing, and the following Wednesday night will start the warming fire which will build up to the ultimate temperature of 2400 degrees by some time Saturday.

The kiln has had over 100 firings during the past 25 years, and because it was Nils's vision which created this place of art and community, I am commemorating it by putting together a book about the history, the building, the people, and the events that have marked this 25 year period. Participants have contributed their photos and their stories which will be included in the book (created on Babies have been born and grown up during this time, coming to firings year after year, and some of their stories will be included too.

On the practical side, there have been repairs to the smaller wood-fired kiln on the property (which will be fired at the same time), lots of cleaning in the sleeping cabins, supply lists written and checked off. All in all, it is a long process. And I'm still trying to get some pots together to put in it! Nils has a nice stash of about 30, while it seems everything I have made has cracked in drying. Very frustrating.

We're hoping the mild, spring-like weather holds for the loading and firing as we have done both in snow, wind, rain and sleet, and we much prefer sun and mild temps.

Crocus are in full, full bloom, and the daffodils are opening!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Throw-a-thon update

A total of 1650 bowls were thrown in 12 hours, and by last night all but two hundred were trimmed on the bottoms, and they will be finished today. An amazing output of energy for a weekend! I'm filled with admiration for Mark and his ambitious (and fulfilled) project! Can't wait to see how much money it raises.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Throw-a-thon for Haiti

Yesterday afternoon we were part of a fun and feel good event at George Fox University in nearby Newberg, Oregon. Friend and fellow potter, Mark Terry, who teaches ceramics at GF organized a throw-a-thon for Haiti. Potters volunteered to come and throw bowls which, after glazing and firing, will be sold to raise money for Haitian relief. I'm not sure, but often these events involve the attendees paying for a bowl and getting a bowl of yummy soup to eat.

Mark was incredibly organized! He had students wedging clay and forming it into balls. Potters (students and pros) were sitting at all the wheels throwing while being supplied with a continuous supply of clay balls in the requested weight. Students also removed all the formed bowls and put them on shelves, keeping count as they went.

When we left, 500 of the goal of 1500 had been made. Nils met his goal of making 50 per hour (!). By 7, there were 1000 bowls made, and they were going on until midnight. It's hard to visualize 1500 bowls on racks and racks and more racks, because it was amazing when we left at 3 to see what 500 bowls looked like.

It was fun, for a good cause, and a good chance to catch up with friends. Thanks, Mark, for your amazing work!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A perfect day with Nils....

A glimpse of sunshine in a Pacific NW winter is always welcome. It may not last all day, but even a couple hours of sun brighten everyones' spirits in this land of much rain and eternal greenness. Today was such a day.

Yoga with my favorite yoga teacher, Laura, started the day. Her message for today was to let the cares of the world fall away. Consider your yoga mat as your world and think of nothing beyond it. I'll definitely be using that thought the next time it seems the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

Then we were off to dear friend Ron's to complete a trade for artwork. My piece "Coupling" now has a place in Ron's home, and now a painting of his (another one of his) will occupy ours. We had a great studio visit and rich conversation...always a delight.

Since it was then noon, I treated (since he always treats me) my sweet husband to lunch at our new favorite restaurant "Uncorked". We had luscious food (hazelnut encrusted wild salmon for me, crab cakes for Nils), then split a lemon cheesecake that was to die for. From there, we headed across the street to Lawrence Gallery to talk to Shannon, catch up on art happenings in the area, and to discuss some possible future projects.

Then home to find the county was finally starting to put more rock on our dirt road. We've been battling the mud (and losing) for several weeks now.

Next we were off on the 4-wheeler to go up the hillside to the spring to find out why the water wasn't flowing into the goldfish pond. It was a simple disconnected pipe that took seconds to fix, so we took the opportunity to drive up near the top of the mountain. As we did, we passed by a previously-logged area owned by a timber company, which now was covered with 3-foot tall young trees that had been carefully replanted after the logging a few years ago. They were just exuding good health and new growth.

The studio was our next stop for an hour of play there before we finally came to the house and settled in for some computer time and relaxation.

There was nothing really unusual about the day, but it was one that had a sweetness about it that made it rich and special. A reminder to find joy in the simplest things...and especially to treasure those who are most dear to you.

(Photo of Nils Lou by Joe Robinson 2009. All Rights Reserved.)