Belated but Merry

A very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  I hope you had a magnificent holiday.  I shut my Etsy shop down two weeks earlier than usual in order to spend my energy on some other important things and to give myself a great, wide open creative exhalation.  I managed to let the studio rest for three full weeks which is pretty unheard of for me!  If I am home, I am working.  I love to work.  I thrive when I am working.  But there’s something so special about those times when we let ourselves lie fallow like great tracts of dark earth, to soak up the sun and the wind and the rain and to spin nutrients into gold and growth.  Yesterday I sat down at my bench to blow the dust off my tools and scrub the rust from my hands and I had a tremendous sense of simply being full on rest and ready to work again.  I tinkered most of the day, not wanting to over commit myself to any of my ideas.  My compass was swiveling in too many directions and I find it’s always better to begin again with a strong sense of “THAT-A-WAY” than to spend a few days pandering to whims.

My muscles remembered my work space, the distance between tools, the swirling rhythm of the pellet stove and the staccato of birds at the feeders.  It was a lovely re-entry into work.  I’ll be in the studio again today and I’m looking forward to going gently as I tap my hammers to the beat of this new, beautiful year.

While I wasn’t working, I thought much about what I specifically value regarding creative work.  It’s not the finished products.  I like what I make.  How could I not?  It’s all a direct reflection of my life and my experiences.  I’m finding what I value more is the process behind the work (which is ultimately the sum of my living).

I drew a late season cow/calf tag for the Idaho side of Hells Canyon this year which is one of the biggest reasons I shut my studio down earlier than usual, so I could focus on my hunt — and it was a great hunt.  The territory was snowless so herds of wapiti and deer remained up in the high country which is where we had to go to find animals.  It was strenuous hiking (can I still call it hiking if I was using bunchgrass as handholds as I covered ground???) in treacherous country and once we found animals, I made a great, intuitive stalk.  I had a lucky, strong wind to blow away my noise and my scent.  The herd was bedded down, chewing on cud, puffing cold smoke into winter air, oblivious to my presence.  I had all the time in the world to set up, watch the herd and enjoy their beauty through my scope.  I was patient enough and lucky, too, when a cow stood up for me, perfectly broadside, on the edge of the herd at 300 yards.  I took my shot calmly, steadying my reticle with a sharp eye as I had practiced so many times, and it was perfectly placed.  She died well and this meat does not taste of fear.  When I finally approached her where she lay, I took off my gloves and buried my hands in the soft fur around her lovely ears and there, on my finger, was the Diana Ring I kept for myself which depicts an elk standing on a ridge in a puff of clouds and I thought, “This is a moment in my life that gives context and spirit to my work.  Without this, without my experiences and the stories of how I live, the work would mean nothing.  This would be a ring with an elk on it.  I would be making hollow objects that resound with nothing.  Because I live what I make, these objects are more than meets the eye.”

I keep thinking this very thing, repeatedly, when I am out riding Resero in the canyon, when I am running and I stop to explore a rock outcropping and find a hare skull, when I am hunting behind our birddogs in the sunshine and basalt with Robert, when I am tending my garden or my hens, when I am warmed by a sage fire in the nook of a rock safe from the claws of a ghastly wind — all of those life details matter to me and inform my work.  The point is not to to go my studio every day and make as much as possible as quickly as possible.  The point is not to tie myself in knots trying to immediately appease people.  The point is to live my life as beautifully and wonderfully and curiously as possible so that when I do sit down to work, my work is born of depth and power that comes from the true story of my life.

I wasn’t art school trained.  I quit university (numerous times) before I was taught how to be an artist (and I am 100% unapologetic about that).  I’m not sure what would have been impressed upon me but I have come to know it’s all this living I am doing that directly fuels the work of my hands.  Without it, my work would have a different truth…a different everything…a different degree of believability…a different context.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past decade at my bench in the studio it’s that I want to know that my work and my ideas are my own, that they have stemmed and branched and grown directly from the elements of my life and the details and ideas I find communicable therein.

I’m not one for making resolutions in the new year, I think every day is a new start that can be full of intention and momentum in the direction of our choosing, but I am always curious to hear about how others are approaching a new year.  I begin 2018 with a continued commitment to living my life with depth, gumption and courage and thereby creating with that same essence when I sit at my bench to work or when I stand afield with my camera in my hands.  What about you?


Holy and Unhabitual


I took the long way to work this morning, a total of 15 driving miles instead of 5.  It’s not the best use of fossil fuels but I find driving extremely freeing and sometimes I simply need to take the long road to get to where I am going.  I sip my coffee slowly in the truck, roll the windows down so the dogs can taste the wind with their long tongues, play my music loud and shake my hair as we swoop around the corners and cowboy wave and the neighbors.  It makes me feel limber and relaxed so when I get to work, I am ready to get to work. I find my holiest habits aren’t truly habitual.  Not really at all.

I am working my way through Trust The Process at the moment and one chapter addresses the idea of changing up daily rituals in order to keep work fresh and progressive, down to silly things like employing non-dominant hands in the middle of work to engage the opposite side of the brain!  Some folks thrive on a day to day regimen but I find I work best when I approach my days exploratively, when I let them, to a certain degree, carry me.  I like to be adrift.  I like to see where the path leads, I thrive on the looseness of intuitive wandering and the freedom therein.  I try to be gentle to my sense of time.

A wise friend once told me that it’s ungrateful to complain about time, its structure, the seeming lack of it on certain days.  It dishonors those who have lived short lives.  I thought, as I drove this morning, about one of the firefighters who died a few days ago on the Twisp River Fire here in the Methow — he was twenty years old.  Just a baby.  So far, I’ve been given thirteen more years of life than he was given.  I am spoiled with time.

Time is on my side.

Something else I am practicing in the studio these days is physically moving, as much as possible.  I am working past a layer of something that is like scar tissue or knots in my creative muscles — muscles that are crackling with seized up fascia; in need of stretching, movement, healing, loosening, a massive tearing down so they can be built back up into a place of flexibility and power once more.  Putting on a song that gets my body moving in between batches of tiny solders and hours of delicate piercing work feels fantastic.  Sometimes I stick a huge piece of paper up on the wall, grab a pencil or a handful of pastels, shut my eyes and simply usher the medium over the paper while I move to music.  I make motions.  I make marks.  I open my eyes when the song is finished and see what the music made my body do.

I don’t really care what folks think of these mad methods, all I know is somehow, they are doing something to me and I feel myself creatively re-opening right now, or at least loosening to the the point of being open to openness.

I’ve been hell bent on setting stones the past few days, re-connecting with work that is clean and made powerful by accuracy, simple mastery of the medium and speed.  There will be time when I settle down into working deeper than this but it seems like reattaching myself to the glorious mechanics and science of metal work and soldering is important right now.  So I am allowing myself time for very basic designs that feature beautiful stones in simple settings.

Clean, bright work.

Last week, after I expressed concern to a friend about the smoothness of my re-immersion into the studio and metalwork, she said, “I just looked through all your photos because I miss your damn face.  It’s been fun to see your growth in photography but don’t let it stifle your metalsmithing.  You are talented at both and it’s good to learn to feed both mediums.  I love you.”

And she’s right.  And it was what I needed to hear.  I am working hard and fostering both right now and am dismantling the feeling that I often have of neglecting one for the sake of the other.7I9A0958

 The promise of autumn is written in the stars and draped in swaths of cold dew on the lawns in the morning now.  Can you feel it where you are?  We’re making our winter plans, finding a place to live once the fire season is over, imagining how sweet it will be to feel the wind in our faces as we hunt birds behind the dogs and curl up with books by a warm fireplace.  The end of the fire season is near and I’ll miss it when it’s gone, like I have every time before this, like I will every time after this.

What we have here in the Methow has become family.  At the firefighter memorial on the weekend, I sat in a sea of broad shoulders and shaggy hair, I sat holding Rob’s hand, and I thought, “This is my immediate fire family and we really are just like a family.  Some of these people are like brothers to me, some are weird, some I plainly do not understand or particularly like, but we’re a family, I love them all and we will always have each other, come rain or sun, come hell or high water.”

And I thought that was a really beautiful thing.