Thinking Smaller

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Just over a year ago a few friends joined me in attending my first Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  If you ever have a chance to go, please do.  It is one of the most enchanting experiences you may ever have, waking before light to see glowing orbs announce the dawn, then wandering through acres of inflating masses that eventually lift off and fill our yawning skies with rainbows of fire breathing beasts.  No joke, you feel like Alice in Wonderland wandering through oversized mushrooms in all manner of psychedelic patterning.IMG_7582

Taos hosts its own Balloon Fiesta, scaled back, less traffic, a more reasonable hour of the morning, and still an utter delight for all who attend.  Extra easy on the little ones in so many ways makes for a great family event!

It’s also the time of year to build inventory for the holiday push.  The studio rhythm has scaled down, become about making cups, mugs, and bowls in mass quantity, objects ideal for gifting friends and family.IMG_3346

Cowgirls have taken a back seat for the moment, still available in the shop here, on etsy, and at Gallery Mar.  I’m also working with tea-o-graphy to put together the perfect holiday gift of blended teas and your very own one-of-a-kind mug both made here in Taos, New Mexico.  It looks like we’ll be attending a few different events where you can buy these great little gifts, so stay tuned and come on out to see what we’ve come up with!

Commission a Sculpture for The Cowgirl or Cowboy in Your Life

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I was honored to sculpt this sweet little cowboy for his doting grandmother.  The posture was just so simple and lovely I was thrilled to capture the timid feeling of his gesture from the photos that she sent.

I have done a few other commissions for folks out here and there, gifts for or of loved ones, exactly what the Clay Cowgirls are to me, capturing features, gestures, and looks of people I have looked up to, cared for, and known.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Commissioned pieces start at $675 and require a few photos and a short description of the person you would like to honor.  Tell me a little about the cowgirl or cowboy in your life, and I will create a unique, one-of-a-kind sculpture to match those sentiments.

A little on process

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A wise potter once told me (and a class of other workshop attendees) to always have works in progress waiting for you in the studio, it will be sure to get you in to work the next day and everyday.  I try to keep this in mind.  Even with a few weeks away with the family over the holidays, a great time to hit the reset button, allow clay works to dry out, clean the slate, rearrange, and start fresh, I have paintings in progress, tea sets waiting for their cups, sewing projects cut and ready to be finished, and clay sculptures in mind for my return.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Rarely do I have a sculpture project I can complete from start to finish in one day.  More complex forms, like independent arms, or forms that have a more dramatic bend in the body, require drying time to harden with the right amount of integrity to support the piece.  Thanks to the dry high desert climate, things can dry a little faster here in Taos, than, say in the Everglades, but it’s a fine line.  Let your work dry too much and you don’t have the freedom to reshape a portion you may not be happy with later.  With clay we have a wonderful material that we can allow to dry and rewet later, and a myriad of options when it comes to working the material at various stages, but there is a certain amount of timing and understanding that comes with experience to work in this medium.

People often ask, “how long did it take you to make that?”  I know they want to know how long it took to sculpt, or form a single piece, not considering drying time, multiple firings, and finish work, but even with that in mind, most laymen don’t consider the development of an idea, the experimentation, the trial and error of learning the craft, nor the pulling together of thoughts and ideas that will later defend our works in artist statements and hopefully posterity.  Some peers even answer by saying it took them their whole lives to make that piece, and in a sense, it did!

Cowgirls of Substance!

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What a lovely evening in town with friends and treats and beautiful clothing!  Jennifer of Substance hosted another holiday gathering with guests artisans including jewelry, bath and body products, and of course Clay Cowgirls!

Thanks for the warm holiday cheer!  Remember to visit Substance for that special new piece for your wardrobe or to soothe the season’s stresses with a facial, a new hair cut, or other spa treatment from Eliza and Pinch!

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Signs and Lights and Balloons Oh My!

By | Adventure, Blog, Business, Cowgirls, Gallery, Inspiration, Marketing, Sales, Studio, The Southwest | No Comments

Time flies when you’re trying to do a lot of stuff!

After 4 months of song and dance, paperwork and payments, business licensing and relicensing, our signs are finally up and legit just in time for the busy season to come to a slow creeping crawl!

IMG_7173Of course things have not quite fizzled out yet!  Since I last wrote I made a trip to Utah, to visit my one out of neighborhood gallery.  Maran of Gallery Mar in Park City is such a lovely woman and so enthusiastic about my work, I could not have been luckier in finding my first gallery representation outside of friendships in Taos!  I wish I had taken a picture with her, but alas, all i did was get some silly photos of me with  my work in her gallery.  I was also able to drop off a new sculpture for her space and sell one to a dear friend who lives out there as well.Gallery Mar Girls

We got back just in time for the Taos Fall Arts Festival and entered a couple of cowgirls into the Taos Open.  The 10 day event was kicked off with Thursday night music on the Plaza and a Friday night massive art on the streets event called the PASEO bringing in projection, sound, performance, robotics, and installation artists from all over the world to grace our small town with the latest in technological and interpretive pieces.

PASEO, interactive moving layered light, a piece by Filipa Valente, Portuguese architect/interactive artist based in LA

PASEO, interactive moving layered light, a piece by Filipa Valente, Portuguese architect/interactive artist based in LA

Things did not stop there with a week full of poetry readings, gallery openings, and music!

I accomplished two big firsts recently, The Taos Fall Arts Festival, and just this past weekend, we made a trip to Albuquerque for my very first Balloon Fiesta!  While it was disappointedly rained out on Friday night for the special shapes balloon glow, where the balloons are tethered but light up in spectacular display, we were still able to check out the amazing chainsaw carving competition and see some remarkable craftsmanship and creativity, and thanks to the line of carnival booths, we also shared a donut burger!

The following morning we attended the mass ascension.  We drove in to the park at dusk while it was still mostly dark and the dawn patrol flickered in the night like massive fireflies lighting on and off as the first light of the morning slowly broke over Sandia Mountain.  By the time we were on the field among the balloons, they were filling and growing up all around us and taking off here and there into the sky!  The special shapes were my favorite, but each balloon’s lift off was cause for a crowd celebration.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland shrunk down among puffball mushrooms of every shape and color!IMG_7580


Wild West Show

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The cowgirls are taking flight thanks to the welding stylings and skills of fellow craftsman and potter, Rene.  After firing up the little wood kiln, and watching the gang pull absolutely amazing pieces from their 10-day firing out in Tres Piedras, I finally got some decent pictures of my ‘flying cowgirl brigade.’  Born out of a little spectacle, a little Wild West free falling, and the vague memory of Big Top acrobatics.BaseJumpers6CowgirlRing2

Live Free

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It’s a startling moment to hear a friend confide that her daughter has tried to take her life.  Not everyone is as fortunate to have that child come to them and ask for help.  This particular young woman is a lovely, intelligent, and active member of her community.  No one would have ever guessed the extremity of her internal struggles.  Her family is doing everything they can to support and help her live a long and healthy life, but the costs of facilities and counseling are adding up.  Thanks to the Live Free Foundation, families that need financial help to cover the care that they need, have a place to go.

The Live Free Foundation is hosting a benefit to increase awareness, educate, and facilitate resources for youth at risk of suicide this evening Thursday, July 17th, in Taos, New Mexico, at the Old Martina’s Hall at 6:30pm.  Proceeds from this event will go to help my dear friend and her daughter through this difficult time.

If you are able please attend this evening’s benefit.  There will be music by The Rifters, Bill Hearne, and Michael Hearne, along with a variety of silent auction items including this Clay Cowgirl Sculpture!


Production Sort Of

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So a friend has recommended blogging regularly to keep my site updated and optimize my visibility on search engines.  So here I am trying to come up with something to write about on a regular basis.  (If you have ideas, I’m all ears!)   In the meantime, he asked me about my process and how the cowgirls have evolved.

Two of the very first cowgirls dry for the wood firing.

Two of the very first cowgirls dry for the wood firing.

For most of my life I have made work from the ideas in my head allowing them to evolve and take shape from whatever material lends itself best to my imaginings.  Clay is a great material for nearly any form one can think of, it is so malleable and responsive and easily works as the simplest of cups to the most elaborate of sculptures.

I love the idea of people using work that I have made.  I am happy making cups, and mugs, and bowls, but they don’t keep my attention enough for me to try to make a living off of them.  I just can’t pump out the kind of production required to survive on those kinds of sales.  I can make a run of 4-20 of something but I quickly want to escape the rhythm of throwing pots to play with sculptural ideas.

Cowgirls sculptures drying in the studio.

Cowgirls sculptures drying in the studio.

The cowgirl sculptures are always a pleasure to create, to watch them take shape, and be surprised by the expressions in their faces and postures.  The first cowgirl was riding a sea creature hand to brim looking out in the distance.  From there I started thinking about the cowgirls as freestanding characters you might stumble upon anywhere, in a niche, sitting on a tuna can, playing the guitar dangling her feet off the end of a shelf… I started with two cowgirls ready for a fight, one with two pistols drawn snarling at her adversary, the other with her hands poised to draw.  I stood them in front of the relatively giant squid sculpture and laughed out loud.  They also worked when facing each other.  I kept making more cowgirls, some sitting, some standing.  The seated ones were charming as individuals but looked really strong as a gathering around a campfire.  The standing ones also grouped together nicely and I started to think of ideas for creating groupings, “The Shoot Out,” “The Cowgirl Washtub Band”, “The Card Game,” “Laughing.”

Campfire-girls-3Some of these groupings have already taken shape, but all the cowgirls are currently sold individually.  Right now my mind is imagining the cowgirls as building blocks for slightly abstracted sculptures.  I’m not sure where this idea will go or for how long it will keep my attention, but right now the possibilities seem endless… I also like the idea of other typical representations of strong women… maybe Roller Derby Girls?  Love those fishnets!


The Big Joke

Getting to Cowgirls

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“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
– Mark Twain, a Biography


The longer version of my last post Why Cowgirls?

Growing up in suburbia Pennsylvania, younger sister to an all-around all-star, for a long time I could easily lose myself in distractions safe under the responsible eye of big sis.  My blurry lettered t-shirt proclaiming “stay focused” was a loving family joke about my incessant head-in-the-clouds syndrome.   My thoughts would easily move in and out of a wide variety of ideas, but never quite landed on the idea to call home when I was out later than expected or check-in when I was asked.

I got lost in my imagination often manifesting itself in sketches and drawings, and eventually other mediums.  I wanted to make something out of anything I could get my hands on, crafting, gluing, sculpting, painting, weaving…  And though I come from a family of scientists and doctors, I gave up on my pondering a future in medicine.  I was lucky to be supported in my pursuit of the visual arts.  Plus it was the only subject Karen chose not to spend her energy on.  Still looking up to her, the competitive sibling in me pushed in vain to be as good in academics, sports, music, and clubs.  I wanted to do everything and be good at it too.

I chose art class over the conflicting time slot of Latin class and that was where my scientific path left off.  I was all in, inventing ideas I could bring to life and copying ideas and imagery I wanted to learn more about.  I copied a lot.  (The guilt over reinventing other peoples’ ideas dissolves quickly when someone like Mark Twain says “There is no such thing as a new idea.”)

I still wanted to keep my options open so when it came to choosing a college I went with the big state school and signed up for an art education degree.  I heard that most students change their minds multiple times before graduation and I knew what an indecisive bumblehead I could be.

In my ceramics studio my professor Liz gave an assignment with pretty broad parameters; create a sculpture that was functional, metaphorical, personal, and incorporated human or animal form.  I racked my brain and finally came to class with the idea of making a dragon chiminea.  The fire in the belly would be my metaphor for being so passionate.  When Liz asked me if I was passionate about dragons I nearly laughed out loud and realized pretty clearly that I was on the wrong track.

I went home that day and asked myself what was I passionate about?  At the time I felt like even art making was something I could give up if I stumbled upon something else as intriguing.  I was easily taken with wherever I was and with whatever it was that I was doing.  It turns out that I am fed by a variety of different interests, and those interests are in turn fed by my involvement in them.  I brought the idea of my octopus punchbowl to the table and was given the ok to go forward on my project.  Each arm was treated differently carefully holding a small cup that formed the head of eight different creatures.  I was so engaged in the idea, the physics and logistics of making such a complex piece, and the function of the final product that this and assignments like this inspired me to add a fine arts degree to my schedule.

After my final semester student teaching it was clear I was not cut out to be a teacher in a public school.  I jumped on the opportunity to stay at a friend’s apartment outside of Washington D.C. while he was away for 2 months so I wouldn’t have to stay with my parents hunting for a random job I wasn’t sure I wanted.  I got my first job waiting tables and spent nights on the floor and days volunteering at various ceramic studios around the area.

I saved up and hit the road to see how the rest of the country was surviving with arts degrees in ceramics.  I checked out grad schools, residencies, potteries, and working artists and landed in Taos, New Mexico trading labor for room and board, waiting tables, teaching skiing, and piddling in clay at any chance I got.  I wasn’t making much work, but I was watching and learning as potters and ceramicists in the area were eking out a living.

I regularly attended a weekly live model session just to keep my hands in clay and eventually started renting my own studio space to work in clay and whatever materials inspired me.  One day I decided to recreate a new version of the octopus punchbowl and as was my habit I listened to a book on tape while my forms slowly came together.  This time it was Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and my thoughts swirled in and around all the amazing women I had known throughout my life, particularly the incredible women I had come to know here in New Mexico beating the odds and making their way.

The octopus punchbowl soon had a rider, hand shadowing her brow, seeking what lay ahead.  It took some time but eventually I started sculpting cowgirls in all manner of gesture and pose certainly informed by the many days modeling the figure, that first cowgirl riding a giant sea creature, and of course very much inspired by the women I have come to admire.