At Summer’s End

Summer is waning and we are slowly seeing the return to the less light-filled days. Heart Song Arts Co has been very busy this summer, participating in some new arenas and returning to some favorites from last year. We are currently showing at Milwaukie First Fridays through October of 2019. We also have been at the Gresham Arts Festival for the past three years, and will be showing in the Fall with Oregon Potters Association Fall Festival 2019. Also look for us at the annual holiday sales at MHCC, Welches, OR, and possibly Milwaukie. Next year we plan to participate in the Canterbury Festival in Silverton, OR in late July as well.

Our studio is under construction and will be finished for use by mid-October. We plan to be opening our studio for classes beginning in early to mid-November, and are looking forward to sharing our interest in clay with you! If you are interested in joining a class, please consider registering with our website under the contact us link, and we’ll be in touch with a list of classes for late Fall. Of course they will be in time for the holidays and are a perfect early gift to someone who wants to learn the art of working with clay.

New techniques are always being added to our work, and we have recently discovered stains, underglazes, and texturing to add visual and conceptual interest to our work. Each piece is carefully crafted either by hand or on the wheel, bisque-fired, then stained, glazed, and fired again to create the rich textural finished product. More on that will be included as part of our classes that will soon be offered on a weekend quarterly basis. Working with clay has been a rewarding and fun experience for many years and we are eager to share it with you too!

“Art is the ‘human’ in humanity.”

Happy New Year 2019

HappyNewYear2019

Happy New Year from your friends at Heart Song Arts. We thank you reading and appreciating our blog and look forward to continued growth and prosperity at all levels. We hope you find success and have your dreams manifested in this coming year.

I am particularly excited about 2019. For those of you that follow Numerology, you know that 2019 is a universal ‘3’ year. Three is the number of growth and expansion; a place of birthing new ideas and bringing new meanings to your life and within it your art. On a bigger scale, the 2018 U.S. elections brought more voters than anytime in recent years and certainly in the new century. At a time when the misogynistic patriarchy seems to run rampant, there is great hope with the election of over 100 women into positions of strength and service. This is, I believe, destiny at its fairest. If nothing else, the spotlights are turned on in the political arenas and change, positive change is in the offing.

On the micro-level of each one of us as artists, a ‘3’ year is a great time to introduce a new line of work… something different, exciting and uniquely our own. For Heart Song Arts, we are turning to smaller works of art capable of holding down on energy and material costs while creating new and beautiful pieces of art. Innovation is the keyword as we branch out in ways we haven’t done before.

As a cautionary note, expansion requires planning. Planning requires testing, doing and creating new things, widening the boundaries of both our attitudes towards life and the manifestation of your story through your art form.

I make this warning because if you are anything like me, when my personal energies are high, I have a bad habit of ‘shotgunning.’ If you have ever fired a shotgun, you know that each round contains many little steel pellets which spread out in a wide dispersal pattern. When you ‘shotgun’ as an artist, each pellet is a new idea which usually takes all of our energy before we complete anything of importance. This slows down the completion process to a lack of fulfillment, scattered vision and no product.

While we enter this year of expansion, deep thought, good planning, and reasonable consideration will narrow the dispersal of energy and bring focal points in which to channel your personal energies to their greatest effect, and create what brings you joy.

Here’s an example. I am a divergent learner with a wide span of interests in the world. Over the last few years, my productivity has varied greatly. I shotgunned a lot. Towards the end of 2018, I made it a point to follow my mentor’s suggestion. “Choose three clay forms that interest you. Establish what they are and then further develop your skills within those three forms.” Believe it or not, this was a difficult task. It took me months to finally come up with my three; tiles, planters and pressed plates (bowls).

Finally coming to grips with focusing myself to three forms felt freeing. It was as if the confusion over a ‘body of work’ was made clear to me and I felt stronger and more self assured. For those of you that have already found your forms, maybe it’s time to look at another; one that brings challenge and joy in the doing. If that doesn’t appeal, change up one of your existing forms with new textures and surface work.

As a painter, you may want to look at what really pleases you. Do you paint portraits, landscapes, still life’s or abstracts? Which one do you prefer? How can you expand the type of painting you love into a body of work? If for example, you love landscapes, try choosing something you don’t normally paint – you paint forests, paint deserts instead or maybe you paint forests, paint them in different seasons. A winter composition may be very different from one painted in the spring, summer or fall. Paint your passion. Remember: Van Gogh enjoyed painting haystacks!

Wherever you go, wander well. Be mindful – just because you wander doesn’t mean you’re lost. New experiences bring new ideas. New ideas bring new art forms. So what ever you do this year and wherever you go, please remember to follow your heart, your passions, and bring your vision to life!

All Things Small and Beautiful

Heart Song Arts

Love adding touches of nature to my work.

values small but beautiful art, both in painting and in clay work. Small is an ambiguous term so by that I mean I keep my newest paintings to not more than 12 inches by 12 inches. In clay, and as a tile maker this means either 4 or 6 inch tiles, often standing separately but when in installation, 4 inches or smaller per tile. Standard coffee cups, bowls and plates are okay too.

Small just doesn’t pertain to size. It also pertains to production. I have never understood the philosophy of making ten of anything. While I know making a large number of the same item serves to create some art installations, how many of us are actually installation artists? If you are, size reduction can be a good thing.

It is not my intent however to tell you how to do your art. I would not be so bold. What I can tell you about myself is, I am a pragmatist as well as an artist. This desire to keep things small(er) did not come overnight. Indeed, when I started, I had what I call, ‘gallery dreams’. If I was going to get accepted into galleries, shouldn’t I go big? It took me awhile to realize that big not only took up too much room at home but was perilously difficult to transport and if I wanted to sell online, well, forget it. The shipping charges could be nearly as expensive as my work. To top it off, many galleries were turning to displays of small art. Big art meant big expense and galleries survive on their sales.

So here are a few things we’ve learned over the years. I have hope as an artist, you might make some heart felt decisions in not only what type of art you do, but will find ways to make it sustainable.

From the beginning, as artists we must consider the types and amounts of materials we need for our creations. If you are a painter, these costs entail paint and perhaps other materials, brushes and canvas. If you use some other support besides canvas, (I paint on wood), those costs have to be considered as well. If you are a potter, you will have to consider the cost of your clay, glazes and the energy it takes to fire a piece; be it wood fired, electric or gas.

Other considerations may include gas if you choose to travel, costs for food and perhaps lodging both in the creation aspect and, as sales of your product. Few of us think about it but the time we spend planning, making, and selling our products are also a consideration. These factors have to be considered before you ever contemplate a sale and each expense raises the price of your work.

When we start putting all these factors in the equation, you might suddenly realize that there is no way to sell your creations for what they are actually worth. You have to look at supply and demand and whether or not your art is sustainable in the current economic environment. This alone can be discouraging. When that happens, it’s time to ask yourself “Why did I do art to begin with?” If your answer is love for your art form, then you’ll prepare your product competitively for the market and realize we do a lot of ‘give-aways’ to maintain our obsession.

The next question I had to ask was: how can I make my art sustainable? and; How can I decrease my carbon footprint in the making of my art? These are not easy questions to answer. It took us a bit of planning, reality checks about our market and we also took a hard look at our audience.

Our audience we believe are people who love art but probably can’t afford it in today’s world. We wanted our Joe and Mary ‘Worker Bee’ to be able to purchase nice things at a cost that they didn’t have to get a second mortgage to afford. This tenet stemmed from my own lack of purchasing power of professional art but still desiring to have beauty all around me.

So how did we eventually answer all these questions? Here’s a spoiler. This answer is forever changing. With the economy shifting and turning like a small boat in a storm, there is a constant need to innovate and reassess our business practices. We do build small but we also access our material and energy needs with the market.

More than once, I’ve heard a baby boomer say “I love your work but I have to be careful about my purchases. My husband and I have downsized since the kids moved out.” Baby Boomers have the most expendable income but many are limited in funds and living spaces. The face of work has changed over the years from “I’ve been here for 20 years working for the same business” to “I keep my suitcase packed. I like to move around and do life.” The focus has therefore shifted from “I’m a material girl” to “I’m a minimalist.”

I used to paint pictures 18 inches by 24 inches. That size of painting needs a wall. Today, the demands are for a meaningful piece of art that is mobile. You can put it on the side table by the bed and when you move you toss it in the suitcase. For that to happen, my paintings are getting smaller, a maximum of 12 inches by 12 inches. My clay art is represented through decorative planters of succulents (particularly cacti) which are easily maintained and no so easy to kill. I make decorative tiles. They used to be six by six inches. Some still are but I’m going to four by four inches, which is a big deal. In painting and pottery, my materials and required creative energies have an extended life, I have space for my art pieces at home and people can pick up something they like and take it with them.

The changing face of art and the collector’s market is changing how artists consider doing their work. Due to an unstable and unpredictable market, being flexible and mindful about materials used, manner of production, and market value all need to be considered before producing art for sale.

Nature that Nurtures

 

By Meg Turner

Every time I work with clay, I’m reminded how nature is forever a constant in my life. Surrounded by beautiful tall cedar and Douglas Fir trees, majestic Japanese Maple and Sycamore trees, I find the ever changing seasons both visually soothing, and inspiring in my work. Nature is all around me in my studio, and it’s presence reminds me of the constancy of the seasons, that spring always follows winter, and that hope can spring anew whenever I look at the growth in my garden.
From a tiny seedling found near our garage, we have now grown a mighty 8 foot cedar tree that will provide shade and beauty in our front yard. Growth is always possible, with enough nurturing, time, and focused intent.

In the same way, with time, nurturing, and focused intent, our business is also growing. From one class 8 years ago, we now have a growing business that is beginning to show signs of stability and income. Our house is still under construction, but will soon be adding a studio that will provide the fertile soil for workshop classes, many studio hours of production, and growth for our business. Through it all, pottery is the constant that grounds me, helps me stay focused, and allows me to build creatively with both hands and heart.  Clay is the medium, and with focused intent, nurturing and continued inspiration, I look forward to many more years of growth.

Millennials Are The Next Big Step In The Art World

Art is the “Human” in Humanities. Art challenges us, moves us and sometimes defines us. It speaks of beauty and of social unrest. It is sometimes status quo but more often somewhat anti-establishment. It can be realistic, surrealistic and abstract. It is… what makes us who we are, beginning with the medium(s) we choose.

Art has always been my lifeline. It has more than once literally saved my life. Yet, back in the 1970’s, the arts in school began to be cut in favor of sports and other crowd pleasers. Last Spring, I worked the Oregon Potters Association Showcase in Portland, Oregon. While there, I attended the Gathering of the Guilds at the same location. I perused the other guilds looking for leather workers. I used to love that art form. To my dismay, there were none. Since then, I’ve still been on the lookout. I found a couple, spread out over a few events but it is one of the art mediums that is very close to extinction.

There are a lot of explanations regarding the extinction of art; people don’t appreciate it, it’s out of style, it costs a lot for supplies, the economy is difficult for artists. There are other explanations as well, so if this is really all there is, art of every form and medium is doomed. Fortunately for all artists in love with our medium(s), these explanations fall short. Artists do art because it is what makes us who we are. It is one of the pleasures that makes life worth living. That being said, looking outside of ourselves for the existence of our medium(s) is futile. It is therefore up to artists not only to create but to share our dream with others.

Art, in any form continues through the intentional process of introducing and cultivating the techniques needed to create our art. Further, and perhaps more important, we artists must be willing to share our personal stories, our thoughts and feelings that led to the creation of our art.

Native Americans regardless of nation were physical, social and spiritual cooperatives. Its members shared life with all others. They received their very identity from the people around them. In the words of Navajo leader Katchina Kootinae, “We are who our people call us.” With every task, from water carrying to spear making, from singing to healing, to tanning hides to crafts, Native Americans shared not only technique but also their story. In spite of prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and genocide, Native American art exists! It does so because it is personal and valuable to their people. It tells a story that is meaningful to the Native American people.

We non-natives can learn a great deal from The People. We must warmly embrace new artists and constantly infuse our art forms with the blood of these young minds, the emerging artists. In order to do this, we must learn as much about this ‘audience’ as we can. This audience was born between 1981 and 1996 (though some would argue 1980 to 2000). We call them Millennials. Using the last figure, Millennials are between the ages of 38 and 18. While every person is an individual, as a group Millennials, like the generations before them, have values that are different from the ones before. If we are to seek new blood, we must first understand some of their general values or know ‘what makes them tick.’

Millennials are multi-taskers which could be a bonus when creating art. They were raised on social media and turn to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.in the process of sharing and acquiring information. They are computer savvy. This is a double-edged sword. Social media is a great way to reach the world, but it is sadly, very temporary and sometimes creates a learning curve for the older generations. The internet is a mind boggling hive of mental as well as physical noise. This too is a double-edged sword. If we are going to tell a story, it has to be compelling. Our story has to be genuine.

Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and valuable to themselves and others. They are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues. Millennials want to feel like they have an open and honest relationship with the people in their lives. They need to know that their opinion is valued and that they can give and receive a lot of feedback. This says a lot. They may use computers but they value one on one meetings, interchanges of ideas and genuine honesty.

At any age as an artist, getting recognized is tough. Sometimes the best approach is a new one. Stepping away from the computer, being authentic on a very personal level has less audience exposure, but gives meaning to the work we do. Millennials seem to appreciate it and for many it’s a novel experience. Millennials are the next big step in the art world. Face-to-face encounters, truthful, compelling stories, open-mindedness, a little respect and nurturing, can and will draw the next generation and assure that our art and dreams will thrive in the future.

Love art? Visit us at Heart Song Arts.

Re-Visioning Your Art Through Setting Values

The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) is the Mecca of clay artists in the United States. Each year, a major city is chosen to host the largest event of it’s kind. In 2017, Meg (my sacred partner) and I had the privilege of attending NCECA close to home, in Portland, Oregon. As relatively new potters (both of us have been following the art form for less than a decade), I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting Richard Notkin.

Most professional people in the field of ceramics are well aware of Richard Notkin, a largely figurative artist and social activist. His work is well known. It is riveting, explosive and very small. Richard is an environmentalist concerned about his family, friends, neighbors and the shape of the world to come. He is a man of great stories and definite values.

It is to this point, his short presentation on his definite and seemingly unshakable values that became a significant event in our structuring Heart Song Arts. Richard, in many ways is unremarkable. He dresses plainly, is unperturbed about how the world sees him and has a great sense of humor. Yet his talk at NCECA 2017 effected me deeply and changed my outlook on art in general. While it is true he is a ceramic artist, his values could be applied to any medium.

Notkin’s practice of ceramic art can be broken down into these key values: work close to home; work to conserve energy in production of one’s work; let your work tell your story and; work small.

He works from a home studio. He uses low and mid-fire clay which means shorter firing periods and lower temperatures, all adding up to less energy consumption. His work speaks of social activism and the world in which he lives everyday. He works small. Most of the work he does is very small (a couple of inches, this way and that). He has done wall murals which altogether makes for some formative large scale art, yet each mural is a composition of small squares about 2 inches by 2 inches. They fire quickly and with very low energy consumption. In short, he has worked out a formula for sustainability.

As a clay artist, I am building at home, a clay studio. I used to fire large pieces but over my working time, the pieces have been greatly reduced. I fire at cone 6 instead of cone 10 and thus greatly reduced my energy consumption. Meg and I used to do straight ceramics. We now build planters with succulents and cacti. Both of our fathers loved the great outdoors and were earthly wise. Our new work brings us closer to their spirits and closer to our personal stories. We are re-visioning our art by setting our personal, sustainable values.

For the sake of discussion, I am a painter as well as a clay artist. I work out of my studio at home. The size of my work has gone from 18 inches by 24 inches or 432 square inches of painting surface to 12 inches by 12 inches (144 square inches) and smaller. I use Nova Color Paint and while I have to have it shipped, I buy in relatively large amounts (so I ship less often). The paint itself has a high pigment count which means better coverage and thus less quantities to do the same work. I obviously don’t need a kiln but I do need lights, so I am moving to white light LED’s over standard lighting which will reduce energy consumption and hopefully curtail blindness.

For me, it doesn’t stop there. I am retired and live on a fixed budget. I buy groceries at WINCO, an employee owned company. I also shop at Grocery Outlet, a discount food store. I make few clothing purchases and when I do, I first shop at places like Goodwill (where on occasion, I pick up brand new clothing – some still with shopping labels on them – for a fraction of buying “new”). I buy furniture very infrequently. When I do, I stop in at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore first.

The computer I am writing this article on is a refurbished PC run on free source Libre Office software and a Linux operating system. This is not some kind of a sacrifice. It is part of my personal values; recycle, renew, reuse and often re-purpose. Apple computers run on Linux. They run in the neighborhood of $1000 to $2500 new. My system’s total cost was around $350. Being a “mini-geek,” I can tell you that both systems have long operating lives, so…

I do what I do because I see too much waste in my world. I really want to be part of the solution not part of the problem. In our art, in our business, Heart Song Arts, and in life, we act locally and think globally. That’s also a personal value. But mostly I do what I do because it’s right for me, it’s fun and I like to think, in many ways, the way I live is helpful to others.

The Artist’s Road to Personal Fulfillment

Heart Song Arts

With so many artists out there, what makes us different?

Splash Background Indicates Paint Colors And Backdrop Stock Image By Stuart Miles, published on 23 July 2014In journalism, capturing a winning story requires a unique viewpoint or slant. In business, that unique place is called a niche. In the world of visual art, it is your unique story.

This desire is the basis for what motivates and drives us, to write, paint, sculpt, mold, shape, build or photograph. Regardless of our medium(s), our unique story is manifested by the art we create. In time, with hard work and tenacity, we build bodies of work, and our special artistic signature (that special little thing found in all of our art) emerges.

Sound simple? Think again. Creating art is a lifelong venture. When were are born, we are suddenly deluged with data… sights, sounds, feelings, tastes followed by a learning processes begun by family members. This is before we ever pick up our first crayon or piece of chalk. Our awareness of all of this data makes us great little sponges.

Sometime latter, we begin to organize this data into thoughts. We begin to decide what’s important and what’s not, what matters and what doesn’t (we’ll call that mindfulness). We then find a way to make those things (we’ll call them values) concrete for ourselves and others. We begin to tell our own story and when we pick up those crayons and pieces of chalk, we make those stories manifest for the first time. We are artists.

Pablo Picasso said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

What happens to our artistic natures as we grow? In general, we lose touch with ourselves. As we age, the learning processes continue, growing in both in complexity and diversity. Life becomes uncertain. We protect ourselves by disconnecting from the world. When we disconnect, we are putting ourselves in little boxes. Things on the outside can’t get in but we can’t get out either. We lose our connectivity with the universe and our creative abilities as well.

As adults, we must re-member who we are. We must once again permit ourselves to be mindful of life. We weigh our experiences and embrace our feelings. These are the foundation stones of our story. Next, we examine our values. As no people have the exact same experiences, feelings and values, we find that we have unique stories to tell. Our uniqueness is what makes us different. Our differences from others are our strengths as artists.

Our pieces of art are outward manifestations of our uniqueness. The underlying theme of our art pieces becomes our special artistic signature. This signature is a physical manifestation of personal fulfillment. Personal fulfillment is achieved when you are truly passionate about your art and freely and without reservation, give yourself to it.