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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Daffodils already popping up....

Oh, dear readers, I fear I have left you in the lurch!  Last post on the first???  How can that be?

It seems December is always a blur, not only with holiday preparations, but with birthdays in our family.  My sister's was Thanksgiving, my oldest daughter's Dec 1st, and my twin daughters' Dec 10th...and then we are left basically with 2 weeks until Christmas.

I've been so behind, I didn't even get the November giveaway posted (after promising at the beginning of the month).  Deb, my dear, you are the winner of a little tidbit of art, and I think I do have your address somewhere here, so will pop this in the mail to you.

Can you tell I am I am just trying to wade through through all the odds and ends of things that need taken care of here on the table?

Our weather continues mild, and we've had an inordinate amount of sun...and here we are nearly at solstice...."the watershed of the year" as Vita Sackville-West called it.  Always a mental load-lifting time for me as I can look forward to spring and longer days, and yes...those daffodils, the early ones of which are already popping through the ground!  One of the many reasons I love, love, love where I live.

A snowy photo from last year...just to get you in the holiday spirit.

Where I grew up, the first blizzard is predicted now, with months of possible snow and storms ahead. For 13 years I lived in MT where we basically had 9 months of snow and 3 months of bad skiing. Here, there is really only about one month where almost nothing is in bloom

Grandson Jake cut our holiday tree for us again and helped me decorate.  It is a bit of a Charlie Brown tree, a wild tree cut from the forest, but it is the fun of going out and getting it and dragging it up to the house that makes it special.  We've already spotted a new stand of moderate-sized trees for next year.

Granddaughter Gigi will be here with mom Kolya for our early Xmas on the 22nd, as will be the rest of the family.  I'll get to enjoy 13-month-old Gigi for 2 whole days!

Have a blessed, healthy, contented, friend-filled holiday everyone.  Back to art soon....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Clocks and looms....

We've been blessed with glorious sunshine for much of the past few weeks, very unusual for us this time of year when the rain, clouds and darkness normally descend for weeks on end.  It has made my usual seasonal depression lift and for me to face the days with energy and excitement.  Scrubbing decks, moving firewood, working in the studio, cleaning out more of the garden, cleaning off the driveway...all have seemed doable and have been done.

One thing I have noticed is that when the low winter sun is shining directly in the windows, every piece of dust, every fingerprint, every cat hair shows up on the furniture, on the tables and counters and floor.  Housecleaning has seldom risen above the lower rungs of my priorities list (although I love a clean house, I don't want to be the one doing it all), so the newly visible neglect has made me do more cleaning than normal too.

December 1st marks my oldest daughter's birthday as well as letting me know that solstice is just 3 short weeks away!  Then the days begin to get longer....Such a relief.  At times, I feel like a primitive person must have felt who perhaps did not understand the cycle of the seasons and did not know that spring would return.

Anyway, I have made some time in the studio and here's what's new.
Oops, I should have rotated this I guess, but you get the picture (no pun intended).  Remember the large clock face I picked up at the bins a month or so ago...about 15" across.  It is replica, a paper face mounted on wood, but with all the appropriate crackling and scratching one might expect on a really old clock face.  The dark part is part of resin clock with Roman numerals on it.  I used the other part of it in a work that I sold...and I cannot now remember the title.  At this point, I have just fastened the rusty metal bar to the clock with bolts.
 Here it is, right side up.  I still haven't decided how to attach the dark, Roman numeral part of it.  On top of the rusty metal piece, you will see a wooden part from a cuckoo clock that also came from the bins, and on the left, an old camera bellows I purchased from friend Tabor (and which is very hard to use because I like it so much!).
 In this detail shot, you can see a tiny cuckoo (from the same clock) that I attached to the bellows.  Now to figure out how to put it all together and what to put inside that inviting space inside the bellows.
 Months ago, I picked up this very old, hand carved loom piece (just the wooden parts without all the other stuff) at the bins.  This is the start I am finally making.  Oh my, there are those little black plastic finials (thanks, Su...again) fastened on, and that metal curlique I got at my last bins trip seemed just perfect to attach to the bottom (I drilled holes in the wood and wired it on from the back), which I realized the second I got it home and in the studio.  Now what?
I found the old wooden oval while rummaging around in the old studio one day.  Finally, it seems like this is the place for it.  And then we'll see where this all goes....

Oh my, giveaway time again too.  Will pick a name and a prize and post that tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The bins shall provide...

During a two-day stay this week in Portland, I took some time Tuesday to go to the bins.  Pickings have not been that good on Mondays recently, so I decided to try going on Tuesday.  Much least this Tuesday was much better.
 Above is part of my stash...hard to see in such a tiny photo, I know, but there are the little white cherubs, eight of them, the weird glass bottle shape, the scary skull, the metal curlique, the elephant, Dutch shoe, interesting frame (for needlework, I think, but I can certainly envision something in there), the little Chinese pot, and a couple other things.
And here, the dark, tall carved Indonesian box, a rain stick, the 3 cats, a decorative box, a toy cash register (just like one I had as a child...very broken but with good pieces inside as you will see), and the ray shape at the top.
 After about an hour of trying to disassemble the toy cash register (they definitely made toys to last long ago...everything out of metal, securely riveted together), I got the nice little pile of keys which you can barely see lower left), and those great pop-up metal numbers...and the red metal pieces.  I often use a little red in my pieces in my mostly dark art, so I am sure these will get used at some point.

As I was leaving the bins, one of the "regulars" that I see
there all the time came over to me and offered me this.
He said it was an Indonesian egg box, but actually I
think it is that game that I can't remember the name of
(see interior photo).  Obviously, it is all hand carved.

Then there was the elephant....   The "regular" who gave me the box above said he had had this in his cart but then put it back, which explained me finding it on a return visit to a bin I had already been through.  He/she needs a little work, but I find it quite appealing in its own right.  The elephant will hang from the crossbar, and there is a little wooden "clanger" which will fit inside the elephant to make a wooden bell.
As I was putting things away, I couldn't resist playing with a few of my new pieces.  No matter what I come across, I always find new inspiration in all the disparate pieces of detritus I bring home.  I loved the 3-cat base this is sitting on as well as the broken but very interesting glass shape (broken off top and bottom from whatever it used to be) as well as the scary skull.  They are all just sitting together to pose for the photo.

I'm going to add a photo of tonight's sunset for you. The photo doesn't really show how brilliant the colors were though...
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving week...

(Me with our driftwood pterodactyl on the treehouse.)
Thanksgiving week begins and most will be spent with my grandchildren, children and my it should be.

There is much to be thankful for...a loving husband, 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren nearby, good friends.  But truly most of all, I am thankful that my health is holding and I feel great and have good energy.  I have goals for months and years ahead, and I plan to be here to fulfill them.

Grandson Jake and I planted 120 spring-blooming bulbs exercise in optimism, is it not?  And if you ever want an 11-year-old to help you get lots of bulbs planted in short order, get an bulb-planting attachment for an cordless electric drill.  It is like an auger and makes quick work of dozens of holes while fulfilling a boy's joys of using tools, digging holes and getting messy.

We also cleaned out the guest room closet which tends to be the catch-all in the house.  I can actually walk into it now!  There we found boxes of photos which need sorted and something done well as many years' worth of my diaries, from the years when I lived in the backwoods of MT, homeschooling the kids, growing the food, hauling the water, tending the fires, cooking on a woodstove.  I think there is another book in there.  Also years' worth of saved letters to review.  Good work for some wintery day when little else holds appeal.

May your holiday be filled with gratefulness and joy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A couple finishes...

I'm just back from the studio where this a.m. I finished up these two pieces.  You've seen their earlier iterations on the blog a week or so ago.
 At this moment, I don't have a title yet for this one (possibly Bits and Pieces).  Above, a couple of the pieces are from one of those decorative bird houses one sees...the archways, which used to have wire "bars" on them, and the top roofline portion.  There is a dial on the right side, as well as the handle, which came from the vintage gas pump.

The detail below shows the interior gears (once aqua plastic but now rusted) and the red string manipulating the woman.

Here's the second piece,  currently untitled (that part of my brain seems to be on vacation).  It's a very simple composition, but it feels right to leave it this way.
 Without a flash on it, the silvery shapes on top cast intriguing shadows that sort of fill in the composition.  Those, you might remember, were part of a metal lamp (painted reddish-purple) that I acquired at that farm sale where I got a huge pile of stuff for $40.  I'll look forward to using the rest of it in future pieces.
The beadboard on the inside of the white box also came from the same farm sale.  The ancient pitchfork from friend Ray.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Winter rains...

As we near the middle of November, some days are filled with treasured sunshine  (like Thursday), and then it is dreary, overcast, foggy, rainy much of the rest of the time.  Here's the view I am seeing right now out our dining room window.
The maples in the foreground are losing the last of their leaves in the winds and rain.  Right before I took this photo, big drifting sheets of fog moved between us and the mountainside...which made me wish I could send you a video (if I knew how).

Grandson Jake and I spent Thursday hauling loads of huge branches (many 20' long) from the woods where we had some thinning done.  He drove the 4-wheeler, we bundled the large branches, pulled two chains around them and off they went to an area where they can be reached when we rent a chipper.  Hard work...but the sun was shining, it was perfectly still and about 55 degrees with a blue sky.

Every couple loads we would lie back to rest in the beds of small branches still covered with needles,  look up at the sky and talk.  It was exquisite.

Wednesday I celebrated granddaughter Gigi's first birthday with her.  Her mommy had bought a mylar balloon for her and we need not have bought other presents. She spent about 30 minutes bouncing the balloon up and down, giggling hysterically the entire time.  There is nothing like a baby's laugh, is there?
                                                       (Daughter Kolya and Gigi)
So, simple pleasures...but the very best kind.

I did some more studio work today, so in a few days, I have some more photos of what is finishing up and what is getting started.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

10,000 and counting...

When I started this blog, I watched the little counter go up 4 or 5 a week...and now, we have surpassed 10,000 views.  I know many blogs have hundreds of thousands of hits, but I consider this a landmark. In viewing my stats, it's interesting to see how many views are from Russia, Korea, Venezuela, Denmark and other far-away places.

A big thank you to those who read often as well as those who peek in occasionally.  You give me a reason to keep working and a reason to document the progression of creation, which I am glad to have....especially now when some of my older pieces hold so little appeal for me.

I hope my work inspires, encourages, and motivates you to create whatever it is you chose to do.  We all need creative outlets in our lives, whether it is through teaching, singing, acting, writing, motivating, designing, decorating or creating art.  It's good for the soul.....

Friday, November 4, 2011

New starts...

The relatively empty walls in the studio have encouraged some new work which I snapped a few photos of yesterday.  The above piece once again uses a couple of those black finials (which I like so much!) that Su sent me in the goody box.  The entire piece measures about 18" tall and the black box is screwed into a wooden checkers/chess board that I cut down to a smaller size with the tabletop band saw.  The round wooden piece was from a recent bins trip, as was the old rusty compass.  No name yet for this one, but I think it is probably done.

 Though I seldom work in white, this one seemed to want that kind of a backdrop to show off the very simple, old, rusty pitchfork that friend Ray found for me.  While it is not done (I don't think), it will probably only have one addition, something hanging from the bent light socket.
This one is still very much in a state of flux with nothing but the background fabric glued down.  The picture is a little inadequate since it was sitting on the toolbench, not hanging on the wall, when I photographed it.

If you look at the lower left, you'll see a little system of gears which used to be a bright aqua plastic toy piece which I used the rusting materials on.  The little silver circular items hanging from the center of each arch are part of an old window-locking mechanism which I screwed into the top of the box.  On the right is an old black faucet handle (and oh, I should have taken a photo of that from the side) sitting on top of one of those great dials from the vintage gas pump I took apart a month or so ago.
What will go on the top and bottom of the piece remains to be discovered.

The sun is trying to come out and it looks like another beautiful fall day despite a forecast that did not sound so cheery.    Since we had some of our overgrown forest thinned a bit recently (see the wood stacking photos from the firing), the brightness is even more evident.  Wonderful...and the view is much improved too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ebooks are ready....and monthly drawing

Finally!  The ebook versions of all 3 of my books (those on the left sidebar) are now available.  Just click on the book and it will take you to where the ebooks are $8.99 each.

And my, how did this happen?  The end of the month is now past and I've got a give-a-way for Dayna, our monthly winner.  Dayna, if you'll send me your address at dianelou at earthlink dot net I'll send it out.

Saturday night we attended the big gala at the Chehalem Cultural Center and the Day of the Dead show.
In a time of limited funding for the arts, it was refreshing to see them raise $160,000 in one night!  Lots of generous donors willing to make a wonderful community arts facility a reality.

I have 3 new pieces in the works which I hope to finish up this week, so I'll photograph them and post them when I get home on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ebooks update....

Despite the promise that the ebooks would be available today, only the East Creek Anagama is ready.  There's a glitch with the others right now and I'm awaiting a reply from tech support. Will keep you updated.

Three nights of frost are gradually eating away at all the plants, but some echinacea still look vibrant.  We'll enjoy every last moment of them!.

Had some studio time, and will post pictures of two new pieces as soon as they are finished.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Firing over...and ebooks!

Twice a year when we fire the big anagama kiln (a wood-fired, 8th century kiln replica), I think it really won't take up most of the month....but pretty much it does.  Saturday we had massive amounts of wood to stack for future firings besides the unloading.

(You gotta love the green moss on this guy's head)
We've hired someone to thin out our forests a little and open it up giving us more light, and lots of that wood was bucked up, split and awaiting stacking in the shed by the kiln.  Thank goodness there were lots of people there...but even so, the unloading, stacking and clean up took us 6 hours.  By that time, we were just tired out.

Oh yes!...Recent news is that where I have created the books you see on the left sidebar is now making all the books available as ebooks!   So if you have an iPad or such, you can download these books for a fraction of the cost of the print version.  Please note:  Only the East Creek Anagama book is available today.  After tomorrow, all should be.  Just click on the photo on the left which will take you to the site, then look for the ebook option to download your book.

The sun looks like it might shine today which would be lovely.  We've had tastes of the gray and wet of winter already, but I am just not quite ready for it to settle in permanently yet (am I ever?)

Time to clean out most of the garden beds, except carrots, which will stay in the ground until they are needed for fresh juice.  I did plant some mixed greens both outdoors and in the greenhouse as they thrive in the cool days of fall and winter and provide us with fresh salads almost year around.

This Saturday night is the gala/fundraiser at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg OR where my Day of the Dead pieces, along with those of a few other artists, are shown with the work of other artists. The silent auction ends that night, and hopefully supporters of the new Cultural Center will show up en masse to bid and raise money for this vibrant facility for the arts.

Ah, yes, the sun is shining, so it is time to seize the day!  Enjoy.... One of these days some more will get done.  It seems that after a big burst of creativity some clean up and reorganization are just what are needed to restart the creative spark which is what I will do today.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bins stuff and another anagama firing

Last night the warming fire was started in our 8th century Korean anagama kiln, and the next 3 days will be consumed with the firing.  We'll have about 30 or more people here off and on doing their shifts, day and night, of stoking the kiln.  By Saturday we should have reached the requisite 2400 degrees, and we will close it up tight, sealing the ports and the door for it to simmer and then cool for the next week.  The following Saturday will reveal what we have.

There is no art process quite like ceramics where it is the final step that either makes or breaks the piece (no pun intended), and that final step has so many variables, especially in woodfire.  The type of wood, whether it is wet or green or dry, the weather, how the kiln is stacked, how the firing is conducted, how fast the temperature get the picture.  The best piece in the world can be destroyed in this final step...a crack can develop, the pot can tip into a another piece sticking them together forever, the glaze may not mature, a piece from an exploding pot may stick to the perfect piece...or as happened once, a series of kiln shelves may fall, starting a domino effect within the kiln.  The artist must truly "let go" of the piece once it enters the kiln.

Anyway, for our second topic, I was able to make a bins trip on Tuesday, and found a bunch of small items that interested me...a whole $25 worth (which also included some Christmas tree decorations, a book, and some other things).  Here are a few photos of what I picked up:
I love the 2 round wooden pieces (no idea from what) and one is already set out to be used in a new piece. The little wooden trivet (red and natural circles) has already been cut apart to yield a bunch of little circles that will be used as accents. Beneath everything is a handmade, crocheted piece on old natural linen.
 Old gauges (upper right), white vintage drawer pulls (very neat), finials, sepia ink, a clamp. old sewing notions, wooden blocks, tweezers, and more.
 Some more odds and ends.  I'm sure the section of glass tiles will be used in bit and pieces in some art.
I really love this big clock dial, and even though it is a reproduction, it will look fabulous in some pieces (because I will probably cut it apart, and maybe even try to get a large copy of the front of it done before I do).  The little scary Halloween tree to the left of it is much more interesting when you cover up the face part.  A couple old frames, one handmade, sort of tramp-art-like are good.  And I like the tasseled cord too.  And so does Jasper (Jazzie), our studio cat.  He's a big old guy who is loving spending his final years in the studio with lots of little round things to bat around on the radiant heated floor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another little find...

Last week when I was at the bins, I found this great guy draped across the bins of clothing.  Sadly his arms were missing, but still, his primitive, rustic look really appealed to me.  Here he is in Nils's studio chair.  Perfect for Day of the Dead season.
Speaking of that, Nils delivered the following pieces to the Chehalem Cultural Center's DOTD show for me today. Seeing everyone else's submissions will be fun!
 Drawer 280 (In the New York show, A Book about Death)

 Offering to the Oracle



Went to the bins again today, so will post pictures of some of the goodies I picked up.  There were quite a few little goodies for "bottom feeders" like me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Drawing winner, and Day of the Dead

September's winner is Tabor!  I think I have your address here, but better email me at dianelou at earthlink dot net with your mailing info.  Congratulations!

Above you'll see a new piece I created for the Chehalem Cultural Center's Day of the Dead show this month (See dates on show section on sidebar). I have a fascination with the DOTD pieces...something so sad, yet so appealing about them. This one is very tall and skinny, but I love how it turned out.
 Below is a detail of the section right below the faux tintype.  Yes, that is a real hummingbird (who sadly died in my neighbor's garage) sitting atop the red-string-wrapped bone.
 And here is a closer look at the top section.  Some coppery strips flank the tintype along with metal wings.  The top is one of those great black plastic finials that blog reader Su sent me (perfect, Su!), and some ancient holiday spires I found in the bins one day.  The white turned wood pieces along the side came from that yard sale where I bought a ton of stuff for $40 (about a month ago), and these peeling pieces were from the sides of an old crib.
Tomorrow I'll deliver to my new gallery in Portland.  More pieces out the door.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Amazing show!

Here I am back home after the Local 14 show in Portland, and it was great!  I sold 10 pieces, got a new gallery, was invited into a ReUse show in spring, met amazing people who "got" my art and what I do, have an opportunity to be filmed and interviewed, and well, all in all, it was validating and inspiring.  And it's always fun to connect with new women artists, and since this is a women-only show, there was lots of that too.

Penumbra, pictured below, was the first piece to sell.

Whoa, September is gone already!  So that means it is once again time to draw a name and send out some "goodie" to a reader who has posted a comment during the month.  I'll try to do that by tomorrow.  And remember each month there is a giveaway of a free item....a print or a piece of someone who posts a comment.  Your name is entered every time you post a comment.

On the 11th, I'll deliver 4 or 5 pieces to the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) show at the new Chehalem Arts Center in Newberg.  Since my work is often a little "dark" anyway, it is easy for a lot of my pieces to fit into that category.

Fall is definitely here.  Time to plant some fall greens in the garden.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Right brain, left brain...

Sorry (again) for my absence, but much of the past week or so has been spent getting ready for the Local 14 show in Portland...and, since yesterday I have been here, setting up, working and selling.  Tomorrow I have the day off, will view the show with friend Jennifer, and just enjoy the day as I am not signed up to work.  Sunday the show is over and it will be pack up time at 5 p.m., then the drive back home.

I met up with lots of old friends and made face-to-face contact with some people known only on Facebook, like Dayna.

A friend posted this wonderful photo on Facebook which I loved.  Yes, I'm sure I am breaking some copyright laws by posting it, but let's just say I am passing on some very imaginative advertising.
Left Brain, Right Brain

Lovely, isn't it?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A vintage gas pump...

While in Portland this week, I stayed with friend Jennifer.  Part of our agenda was to visit friends and fellow artists, Tabor and Greg, and shop a bit from Tabor's inspired collection of stuff.  So off we went....

After we finished drooling over everything (and all too often lusting after the same items), we made some choices, and here is one of mine, a vintage gas pump. Here's how it went as we  (Jake and I, and then Nils at the end) disassembled it.  When I bought it, I thought there must be lots of stuff inside as it was quite heavy.  And, of course, all those intriguing dials showing held a lot of promise.  Here's the sequence of disassembly:
Above you see it as it started out with a hand crank on the side and several sets of dials.
 Here we have the front off...and I find the front very intriguing in itself.
 The next level back gives us a peek at what's inside.
 Luscious little dials with brass gears on the sides.
 And more....
 After some struggle, more wonderful dials.
 And lots of bits and pieces at the end.

Tabor and Greg,  the time at your home was absolutely entrancing!  Lovely food, good conversation, captivating surroundings, and good shopping.  What could be better?