Monday, January 11, 2016

New: I'm a Kindle Author

Just to let you know, my followers: I have published "Clay in the Potter's Hands: Musings of a Wildenhain Potter" on Amazon's Kindle site, as an e-book. In it, I have rounded out and filled in what's been blogged here, making the book a bit easier to read and more autobiographical.

I also have several short stories published there as well. The links are at the top right of this blog page, if you're interested (there's always a free sample to read there).

So much for shameless self-promotion!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rodin's Testament

Marguerite Wildenhain often read to us while we sat eating our bagged lunches under the tree or in the sunshine by the door of the barn at Pond Farm. When she read her translation of Auguste Rodin’s Testament I felt moved to tears. I pass it on for the next generations of potters, sculptors, and artists to feast upon:

Translated by Marguerite Wildenhain

You, young men, who want to be the officiants of Beauty, may it please you to find here the summing-up of a long experience.

Love devotedly the masters who have preceded you.

Incline yourselves before Phidias and Michel-Angelo.  Admire the divine serenity of the one, the fierce anguish of the other. Admiration is a generous wine for noble spirits.

Nevertheless, beware of imitating your elders. Respectful of tradition, learn to discern what it contains that is eternally fecund: the love of Nature, and Sincerity.  These are the two strong passions of the geniuses.  All have adored Nature, and they have never lied. Thus tradition hands you the key, thanks to which you can evade routine. It is the tradition itself that asks you to question reality over and over, and that forbids you to blindly submit yourself to any master.

May Nature be your only goddess. Have in her absolute faith. Be certain that she is never ugly and limit your ambition to being true to her. Everything is beautiful for the artist, for in every being and in everything, his look will discover the character, that means the interior truth which shines through the form.  And this Truth is Beauty itself. Study religiously: you cannot miss finding Beauty for you will encounter Truth.

Work relentlessly.

You, sculptors, try to fortify inside of you the sense of depth. The mind has difficulty to get familiar with this notion.

It imagines distinctly only the surfaces. It is not easy for it to visualize forms in depth. All the same, this is your task.

Above all, establish clearly the large planes of the figures that you are sculpting. Accentuate vigorously the orientation that you give to each part of the body, head, shoulders, pelvis, legs. Art requires decision.  It is through the well-stated lines that you are able to catch depth.  When your planes are set, all is found. Your statue is already alive. The details grow and place themselves out of their own.

When you model, do not ever think in terms of surface, but of relief.  Let your mind conceive all surface as the extremity of a volume that is pushed out from the back.  Imagine the forms as being pointed towards you.  All life surges from the center, then grows and blossoms from the inside towards the outside.  In the same way, in beautiful sculpture one can always feel an interior impulsion. This is the secret of the antique art.

You, painters, observe in the same way the reality in depth. Look, for instance, at a portrait painted by Raphael.  When this master shows a person from the front, he makes the chest go obliquely and gives you thus the illusion of the third dimension. All great painters have tried to sound space. It is in this notion of depth that their strength resides.  Remember this: there are no traits, there are only volumes. When you are drawing, don’t worry about the contour, but about the relief.

Practice without end. Break yourself at your job. Art is only feeling. But without this knowledge of the volumes, of proportion, of colors, without the skill of the hand, the most alive feeling is paralyzed. What would the greatest poet become in a country whose language he would ignore?  In the new generation of artists there are numbers of poets who, unhappily, refuse to learn to speak! Thus all they do is stammer.  Be patient!  Do not count on inspiration. It does not
exist.  The only qualities of the artist are wisdom, attention, sincerity, will. Accomplish your work like honest workers.

Be truthful, young men.  But that does not mean be flatly exact.  There is a low exactitude, that of the photography and of the casting.  Art begins only with the inner-truth.  May all your forms, all your colors, express feelings.  The artist who is satisfied with the make-believe and who reproduces servilely details without value, will never become a master.  If you have visited any cemetery in Italy, you certainly have noticed with what childishness the craftsmen in charge of the decoration of the tombstones have tried to imitate embroidery, lace, hair-do in their statues.  Perhaps they are correct, but they are not true, for they do not speak to the soul. Nearly all our sculptors remind you of those Italian cemeteries.  No inner-truth, thus no art. Be in horror of this junk!

Be profoundly, fiercely truthful.  Never hesitate to express that which you feel, even when you find yourself in opposition to general ideas.  You may not be understood at once, but your isolation will be short.  Friends will soon come to you; for that which is deeply true for one man, is so for all.  No grimaces, though—no contortions to attract the public! Simplicity, naiveté! The most beautiful subjects are in front of you: they are those that you know best.

My very great and very dear friend Eugene Carrier, who left us so soon, showed his genius painting his wife and his children. It was enough for him to celebrate maternal love to be sublime. The masters are those men who look with their own eyes at what everybody has seen, and can see the beauty in that which is too common for other minds.

Bad artists always wear other people’s boots!

The great thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.  To be a man before being an artist. Real eloquence, said Pascal, laughs at “eloquence.” Real Art laughs at “Art.” Again I cite the example of Eugene Carrier.  In the shows, most pictures are just “Painting:” his seemed among the others, as windows open on life!

Accept the fair criticisms.  You will recognize them easily. They are those that confirm some doubt that has been worrying you. Don’t let yourself be hurt through those that your conscience does not admit.  Don’t be afraid of unjust criticisms. They will revolt your friends.  It will force them to reflect on the sympathy that they have for you and they will more resolutely show it when they more clearly discern the motives for this sympathy.

If your talent is fresh, you will have only few partisans at first and you will have a multitude of enemies. Don’t be discouraged.  The first ones will triumph, for they know why they love you: the others ignore why you are odious to them. The first ones are passionate for truth and recruit without end new adherents: the others do not show any lasting zeal for their false opinion.  The first are tenacious:  the others turn to any wind. Victory of truth is certain.

Do not waste your time trying to knot social or political ties. You will see many of your colleagues arrive through intrigue to honor and fortune:  they are not real artists.  Some of them nevertheless, are very smart and if you should try to compete with them on their terrain, you will have to consume just as much time as they do, that means your total existence:  you won’t have a minute left to be an artist. Love passionately your mission. There is none more beautiful. It is much loftier than the common man believes.

The artist gives a great example. He adores his profession; his most precious reward is the joy of doing it well.  Actually, alas, one convinces workers to hate their work and to sabotage it. The world will not be at peace till all men have artists’ souls; that is, when all have pleasure in their tasks.

Art is also a magnificent lesson in sincerity.  The real artist expresses always what he thinks at the risk of upsetting all established prejudices.  He thus teaches frankness to his fellow men.

Now, let us imagine what wonderful progress would be realized at once, if absolute truthfulness reigned among men!  Oh, how society would quickly reject all errors and ugliness that she would have admitted, and with what rapidity would our earth become a Paradise!

If You're a Real Potter, Don't Move

Casa Loma studio

Looking back at thirty-plus years of making pots, I have to admit that every time I got a new studio going it took an inordinate amount of time to restart and get back up to speed. I have had four studios: Rocky Road Pottery in Prescott, Arizona; Desert Willow Pottery in Borrego Springs, California; Desert Willow Pottery (again) in Cedar City, Utah; and Casa Loma Pottery in San Antonio, New Mexico. Let me describe them a bit.

Rocky Road Pottery: I lived in a summer cabin in Prescott, but I lived there year-round. The pottery had been a woodworker's shed, very rustic. It was eight feet across and sixteen feet long, with a concrete floor and a roof that thankfully never leaked. It had wooden but uninsulated walls, a window to gaze out from my wheel, and an 8x8 covered "porch" at the front end. Inside, I had my homemade kickwheel, an old kiln that had maybe two cubic feet of space in it, a new Crusader 5 cubic foot kiln, an old wringer washtub that I made clay in, shelves, racks, and bags and jars of chemicals. There was no heater.

Actually, the cabin only had minimal wood heat, and when the fire died down during the winter nights, there would be a skin of ice on the cat's milk bowl. INSIDE the house. I'd open the refrigerator and feel warm air coming out. My winter routine would be to get up and dressed warmly, heat water for coffee, go out to the shop and turn on the electric space heater, pick up a load of wood and come back into the cabin to start up the fire in the Ashley stove. After two and sometimes three cups of coffee I could face going out into the barely-warm-enough studio to start work. I learned that "they ain't NOTHIN' colder than the cold, cold clay, honey." Though the electric heater had warmed things up tolerably,I had to bring hot water from the house to throw with. And still my hands would get so awfully cold!

I learned that it is no good for greenware to freeze! I did enjoy the summers, though. And while I was working on pots in Prescott, I endlessly tested clays and glazes (I made my own formulations), prepared for to shows, learned how to build my own displays,went to shows,  collected sales taxes, tried to network and to find shops to carry my work, and learned to juggle utility and food bills. This was during the recession of the mid-Seventies, and many people told me they liked my work but had to feed the kids.

Aaaagh! Those were the hardest days. I was really alone, and David Stewart had told me to "go forth and pot," that he'd shown me everything I needed to know to get started on my own. That I shouldn't try to be a potter in California (I believe he thought Arkansas would be the best place but that was too far from my family for me). That I should let the rubber meet the road, and see if I really had it in me to be a potter. Well, Prescott taught me that I had guts.

But, I wasn't making it financially. I had to slink home to California, and give up the Prescott cabin, and pottery for awhile. A hiatus ensued where I got a "real" job as an advertising manager for a newspaper, followed by a short marriage, followed by a stint working at a radio telescope, then as a florist. I turned to art--my watercolor-and-inks--and spent awhile at art shows making slightly more money than I had as a potter. I believe I made money making stained glass objects and windows, too.

Then, I married Mr. Right, and he had a job that paid pretty well (met him at the radio observatory). He urged me to restart the pottery. So I claimed half of our one-car garage (which was somewhat more space than I had had at Rocky Road Pottery). All my pottery stuff that I'd dragged back from Prescott got dusted off (okay, that's a joke, because there's not much BUT dust on everything a potter owns), and began again. The setting-up part required reconfiguring a garage; shelving had to be set up the way I wanted, 220v had to get the right shape plug for the new kiln (I'd sold the Crusader, now got a new Aim kiln, again about 5 cubic feet. Had decided I would get pre-pugged clay from Aardvark instead of struggling to make my own. Needed to figure out where to put it (outside the garage under a tarp). More tests. Shrinkage tests, glaze tests--all of this has to be done since I'm now at a different altitude, I have water that's full of calcium, I have a new clay body that doesn't quite work with the old glazes.

I sat for hours in the living room, with a calculator and note paper, titrating chemical glaze formulae, substituting ingredients. Making notes, testing several new iterations of glazes each time. Making a kilnload of test pots, knowing that they all might look like crap, but that I couldn't go forward until I had good stuff. And not really able to fire a half-full kilnload for testing, because the results aren't the same.

I actually did pretty well in Borrego, with Desert Willow Pottery. I had annual shows at my house, the way Dave Stewart did; people knew me and would call me to see if they could come over to pick out, oh, a wedding gift or something. I had two local shows I was in, and two or three our-of-town shows I went to. That was busy! I must admit, I liked the heat of the desert better than the freezing cold of the mountains. I did call it quits in the summers when drops of sweat were falling off my nose down into the pots on the wheel, though. 115 degrees in the shade is just too much.

My husband's work came to an end, however, and here is the potter's dilemma: if you're a "REAL" potter, it's YOU who makes the money (such as it is). You may have a wife or helpmeet of some kind but YOU do the work. You are not a "REAL" potter if you have a partner who makes sufficient money to make what you earn look like a kid's allowance. You are not a "REAL" potter if you have to pull your studio up by its roots and move somewhere else where you will (happily) have enough money coming in by your partner but you have to start from scratch.

In certain get-togethers with other "Pond Farmers" (students of Marguerite Wildenhain who had the opportunity of attending her summer schools a her studio/school Pond Farm), I felt a slight snubbing by some potters who were smoothly living their lives with studios that were entrenched for years in the same location. I was seen as a wanna-be, I guess, because I have had multiple studios, not enough "cred" in the marketplace.

I didn't care, as I loved and still love my husband very much, and I know that whatever I did I was doing it gung-ho, and as honestly as I could. But, beware! The dilemma is real, and the choices you make are truly life-changers, in the long run.

Back to the story of my multiple studios. We found ourselves in Logan, Utah, in a house with a beautiful warm , finished basement but too darn nice to get covered with clay dust. The garage was big enough, but unheated, and Logan was gonna be colder than Prescott in winter. I decided to give up on the pottery and basically sold all my equipment and tools and supplies.

"Time passed, as time does" (quoted from the movie Enemy Mine). We moved from Logan to Cedar City, Utah. I had designed my home in Borrego, and I designed our home now in Cedar City, with a heated three-car garage, one bay of which was separate from the other two and fully loaded with built-in shelves and 220v for my new pottery. I had the design for my kickwheel in my head, and this time I asked a neighbor who was a fantastic woodworker to build it for me. He built it so stout that my every kick translated 100% into flywheel motion--there was nary a wobble or one lost erg of foot energy lost. I got a new kiln, dang if I can remember what kind, this time. It was 6-plus cubic feet this time, and now they made them with a lot thicker walls and extra insulation. By golly, they had digital controls now, too--no more getting up every hour all night long to go check on the cones! I spent bucks for that but, oh, so worth it!

Now I had warmth, I had the equipment, I had saved a few good glaze recipes and I moved forth hoping to avoid a complete reboot. There weren't many shows locally, but I started out with a first annual show/sale at my home, which was pretty nice. I guess I spent most of a year getting up to speed, and then ...

My husband lost his job. We stayed several months, thinking we could hunker down and that we had enough to "retire early" on. But, in the long run, it wasn't to be. I had built a dream home. I had my dream studio. Sigh. But (and here is wisdom), if you have married someone you really care for, their happiness is at least as important as your own. If they start showing signs of, hmmm, existential depression? Then you've got to deal with it. He could get some sort of "job" for money, but his training and love was in computers, science, physics, astronomy. He was too young to be put out to pasture, his brain still needed to engage in difficult problems. He was grinding, mentally. I suggested he look nationally for some work, and told him I'd be willing to move. Hardest dang decision, but I saw the handwriting on the wall. And I knew from living with husband number one what it was like to live with someone who was not a happy camper.

A dream job showed up, at an observatory in New Mexico. We moved, and after renting eventually found a good place to live, with an outbuilding that was the size of a two-car garage (unbelievably large space for me to pot in)! It took me a while to get over losing the dream home, but such lis life!

Now hubby was happy, and yet again I spent time fixing the shop up (adding 220, insulation, electric heaters, water supply, shelving, etc. etc.) New clay bodies to test (although by this time Laguna Clays were available here too so I had familiar clays to play with). I got a fantastic book by Hesselberth on Cone 6 glazes and how to make sure the glaze FITS the clay body. I got his glaze-making program, GlazeMaster II, which allowed me to do the titrating without hand-computation, so that I could conduct tests faster. I actually used one of his basic glazes, and tweaked it a little, instead of making up my own from scratch. It was SO much easier!

At Casa Loma (our ranchette in New Mexico) I finally got some steam up and forward progress in my pottery life. I was able to hold shows at my studio, more than once! I was able to put pots into local shops. I decided to skip shows, I was getting older and they were too tiring. And my glazes got good enough and reliable enough that I dared to think about approaching the gift shop people in the Albuquerque Airport with a "line" of simple gift ware, each stamped on the bottom with a stamp I had made saying "Handmade in New Mexico." How great was that day when the buyer and her committee looked over my work and with big smiles said to me, "we can do business!"

Now I learned what it was to make a commitment for several hundred dollars' worth (wholesale) of pots every six months. I had set it up so that I could DO it, and not overreach, but still there was the pressure that in earlier chapters you heard me eschew. I left plenty of time for myself to do just "whatever I want to" pottery and sculpture, though. I actually felt I was in a heyday, and this lasted me for a couple of years.

Then something happened, but it wasn't quite like a sudden job layoff.  Something about being done with a project, and other people around my husband getting laid off. The project was going from a research/prototype stage to a care-and-feeding stage, and it just wasn't the same. My husband was finally feeling the burnout and time-to-retire melody. We happened to drive through a nice place in Arizona on our way to my California family, and both got the distinct impression to move there.

What can I say? I guess I really must not be a "REAL" potter after all. We have been living in Arizona now for five years and I decided that their (very nice) group studio here was just not enticing enough for me. I have no place to make pots at home, and I have finally lost the driving urge to push hard against the clay. I have loved making pots, and I have loved doing lots of other things.

If you have the chance and the temperament to stay in one place for a long period of time in your life, then you may well become a renowned potter, no matter how talented (or not) you are. All of that judgmental stuff about whether your work is "good" or not is just that, after all--judgmental stuff. You do it because you want to, because you are enchanted by the clay, because you have to do it, because you are an artist, a seeker of truth, you strive to make beautiful things, because it GRABS you. Being in one place and sticking to it gives you the advantage of not having the frustration of starting over time after time. But, if you have the temperament of a nomad, or a partnership with other humans including children, your potting life will be more erratic. Have no fear, though--that life is just as fulfilling! But it's not according to the ideal pattern set by Marguerite and Dave--the noble potter grown like a tree with deep roots into the earth, ever with your eyes on the clay.

I have to end here with a deep bow to Rol Healy. Rol was a Pond Farmer, but like me, he felt he was snubbed by several in "the group." He was a gentle and very creative soul. His pots "flopped" more than he wanted (glaze chemistry was really not his thing). He made saltshakers that looked like monks, a clay umbrella stand that looked like Noah's Ark, and he loved to garden. He made lovely planters, homes for his plants. He taught English to make ends meet. About being a potter he remarked mildly, "I get up and have breakfast. Then I go outside and see which way I turn." Meaning, his studio was in one direction and the garden was in the other. I have the utmost respect for him and for his laid-back take on life and art. Potters do, after all, play with fire. A weaver can get up and leave the loom for days, without a care. So can an oil painter, or someone who knits. Potters, once they've thrown some pots, MUST tend them through their drying state or they may crack. Once the kiln is fired up, it MUST be tended to avoid failure. There is not nearly the opportunity to just walk away and have a day in the garden, or at the beach, or whatever. What I'm trying to say, I think, is that you do have to have a certain amount of "driven-ness" to be a potter, you do have to have time-commitment capability. Rol was only just on the edge of that, and I guess so was I. We did our best, and our best was just fine.

Stay put if you can, and if that's your "thing." It will help you get better-known. But if you're a nomad at heart, and still want to be a potter, I say go for it. You will have quite the adventure!

Better Times, and a New Book

Now Got Curly Hair, thanks to Chemo!
It's been a year since I had abdominal surgery and thought I was a goner. I'm now back to normal health and, although I have not been making pots, I'm active and creative and ornery as usual. I'm now working on a book about "The Bomb" and the effect that ducking under the desk during air raid drills in the fifties and sixties had on us Baby Boomers.

In order to test my self-publishing skills, I've decided that this blog, which has had extensive viewing and several comments, should become my latest and longest e-book for Kindle. I've been massaging the words into chapters; I'll be adding chapters, too. I will leave this blog here for the nonce (if not indefinitely), but I will let my followers have a link to "Clay in the Potter's Hands" e-book once it is published. Then I'll be ready to tackle putting "Under the Desk" together. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sad Update

Hi, my followers--

I've had a serious health issue the last 2 months. I am finally at home, propped up in a lounger and able to blog a bit.

First let me tell you that no matter what you think is important in your life, the love of your family and friends is paramount. If you've got a complaint with parent, child, or sib, DEAL WITH IT NOW! You have no idea how much time is left you--or them.

I've had a bit of time to lie around, and I found that David & Gail Stewart actually have a little gallery somewhere in San Diego. His paintings (no pots anymore)--full of red, vivid colors, flowers, and female nudity (what's not to sell)?   ;-)  He's having a blast, I think. Go to

His Lions Valley ware is no longer being made but can be bought here & there online.

I feel I'm kind of out of it and that I am not telling you anything you don't already know...

In fact, this will be my last post in this blog.

Perhaps I can share an anecdote or two about a time when I was studying with him at his Dulzura home...

Ah, what to mention? The family of skunks under the house? The cactus/euphorb garden decorated with many shards of failed pots? Nyva's beautiful handmade rag rug on the living room floor? Wildenhain pottery in a glass case? Drinking tea from on of Dave's special teapots with the leaf filters? Smoking... explaining that his yellow teeth were actually from the natural fluoride in the water in Deaf Smith county TX where he grew up (he had no cavities)?

There were two handbuilt kickwheels in his studio. If he was throwing something large, he could let it dry a bit on one and use the other to continue on other pots.

He didn't use a chuck, just threw directly on the wooden wheelhead (some hardwood, looked like maybe he mounted a cheese cutting block to the flange on top of the rod). He had a handmade wire cutter, and just cut each pot off while rotating the wheel. You can see the distinctive twisted spiral cutmark on most of his piece bottoms.

His "drying room" was a wooden trunk, with plaster cast into the bottom which he could keep damp when he put the lid on the trunk. Never fussed with wrapping stuff in plastic. OK I take that back--if he had something handbuilt going on the work table he covered that up with plastic.

He took me through all the "forms" or representative types. I think that info is out there thanks to Marguerite...short cylinder (dog dish!), tall cylinder, bowl, etc...

He worked with colored slips that he made from scratch, and did all the sgraffito decoration work in greenware. Then he bisqued, and basically dunked everything into one glaze. More efficient than at colleges where almost nothing is done to greenware and all your time is spent figuring out which glaze of a dozen to use.

He used bits of raw clay on the bottom of each bisqued, glazed, and wiped-bottom pot, to prop them in the kiln. These popped off easily after the glaze firing (though I remember he had a grinder in his studio--for goofs!)

The trouble with doing all your decorating on greenware is that there is a window of time you've got to get it gone in, then you're out of luck. I found that if I bisqued my pots, then used black wax resist to carefully outline my designs (carefully! as one mistake ruins it), then I had all the time I needed to apply underglazes with a dropper to make my colors...then I could dunk the bisqued pots into a single semitransparent matte glaze.

The results were not Marguerite, nor David, but Barbara.

If you should see a Marguerite Wildenhain Retrospective Art show somewhere, I hope there are many pots of her students there to view as well. You will see that each potter is unique--BUT--that each screams "Wildenhain" as well. We're all old farts now, but the legacy of her Pond Farm teaching lives on in the work of hr students; David was her chief assistant, and his influence lives on as well, in the work of those he helped.

Well, I am going to sign off. 

Thanks for following my blog,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Uff-Da" -- pouring two buckets of manure into one bucket

OK, the title is just symbolic: I have had another blog at BlogSpot called Barb's Pots, where I showed images of stuff I was doing. After cleaning off my old computer (putting images onto a flash drive) I discovered that almost all the images in the blog were gone. Since I'm not making pots anymore, I decided to abandon that blog anyway rather than try to recover it. The following blog is an "uff-da" attempt to recover what little there was left in that blog and "dump" it here.

Here is the post from Oct. 2012 that still had images. It was my latest & last post there--

Just a quick hello--after nearly two years of restoring a house bought on foreclosure as my all-consuming art project.

I joined the Clay Studio of Green Valley, Arizona, to get my hands back into the sticky stuff. I started by enrolling in a sculpture class--never was in one before. Unfortunately the teacher broke her hip shortly before the class, so no instruction.  However, some experienced students volunteered to man the room during the class time, and have been helpful steering us towards whatever goal we want.

So, here is what I did in two class sessions. She doesn't have a name yet, is about a foot tall, and I plan to bisque her and apply a low-fire crackle matte white glaze as a test of that glaze for a larger piece I have in mind.



Monday, March 31, 2014

No Bad Hair Days

No Bad Hair Days!

Well, I guess it's time to post some more. Yet another person asked me about Dave Stewart's pottery: I guess the search engines that be direct people to my blog. So, I have a small following now, several comments too.  I never really published sci-fi but I have been paid for writing nonfiction. As I ate breakfast after responding to the blog question, I decided that I am an essayist.

Whoda thunk it? Not an Op-Ed writer (I dislike politics). Just an essayist. So, here's a bit more essayish stuff on Dave Stewart, y'all: his glaze contained lead. He periodically got checked for lead poisoning, and his pots got checked for leaching (both always passed). The lead made the lovely red color come forth. Another thing about his glazing: he used a gas kiln to glaze-fire with. He said he never reduced, just fired oxidation (all ports open). But! I am of the opinion that his firings actually experienced reduction. My thought is that his old boxy kiln going full bore just didn't HAVE enough ports to allow enough oxygen through. Also, the magnetite specks always made nice big black spots. Magnetite in my clay body NEVER made such spots. Magnetite added to my glazes made petite black spots. And it was magnetite, all right... Dave used to let Gail drag a magnet on a string through the beach sand in La Jolla and collect all the magnetite personally. I did that with magnetite in Socorro (iron-rich rocks and sand at our home). But no lovely black dots. Thus, I figure that after trying everything over thirty years and not managing to get Dave's spots, it had to have been the firing which produced that look, a reduction firing.

Oh, wait--I just thought: it might have been the lead, too.

Okay. Just about enough for now. I titled this post No Bad Hair Days because I just  lost most of my hair (probably alopecia areata) & I am now wearing a wig. It's a fun, bleached-blonde thing, not how I used to be able to wear my hair at all, but more indicative of my inner personality than what I could get ever get out of my real hair. I am totally pro-wig now--these things ain't the ones that were around in the '70s (which made us all look like Harpo Marx).

Have a good one!


[Was just revisiting this blog and found this draft, unpublished, from April 2007. I hit the "publish" button and google stuck it here as though published today...]

Men sit down on the toilet some of the time; why not all the time? Women sit down all the time. Are men too much in a hurry? Probably, from the looks of the toilet when the wife comes in to do the cleaning.
I am reminded of a strange joke. "Why do dogs lick their parts-that-needn't-be-spelled-out?" "Because they can." Probably, men stand to urinate because they CAN. In the wild, there is nothing wrong with this: in fact, it's enviable (the lucky dogs, so to speak)--especially in the cold and snow.
However, at home, men should use "toiletiquette," and sit. First, there is no quarreling about where the seat should be left--it's down, period. No shrieks in the night when the wife sleepily sits and drops in because she forgot to check seat status.
Second, and more to the point, it's a lot less mess. Guys, no matter how well you aim, the stuff splashes. You don't think so, but you are too high up to see it. You gotta come down on your knees (as one does when one prepares to clean the fixture), and you will notice the little yellow-brown spots on the rim, the underside of the seat, and even down the front. While you're down there making your scientific examination of my claim, take a whiff--urine also reeks. It is impossible to get off of a carpet (good reason not to have carpet around the toilet anyway), it's almost as hard to get off wallpaper or curtains, and it comes off only fair from linoleum or hardwood (tile is fine).
Men: if your wife is the one who cleans, give her a break. If you do the cleaning, why heck, give yourself a break. And enjoy the extra chance during the day to sit down and relax!
Women: if you do the cleaning after a man or men in your house, tell them to sit or you will quit cleaning. There is no reason to put up with this thoughtless habit.
Now here's one for the women. The washing machine and dryer were invented so that washing clothes could become easier. How was it done before? Heat the water on the stove, mend the clothes, wash everything by hand, hang the clothes on the line, heat the iron, iron the clothes.
I imagine that Moms back then made it very clear to their kids and husbands that getting clothes needlessly dirty put them in peril of whatever Moms threatened to do back then.
So now we have washers and dryers. But some of you will sadly accept the Zen koan that Life is an endless pile of laundry. Why do you spend so much time doing laundry? I think there are two problems here.
First, everybody in the family gets clothes needlessly dirty much more than they did in The Good Old Days. Mom doesn't threaten anybody anymore--why should she? She has the Wonder Machine to take care of all the little sloppy messes, just like on television--and of course, the right Brand-name expensive Wonder Guck that will take out every stain known to man. So I hear that children today wear their outfits one day (if that long), and plop--they're in the laundry pile.
To digress on smelliness: now, it is true that in the Good Old Days people went without baths for longer periods, as well; and if their clothes were going longer between washings too, I'm sure that everybody smelled a lot more. When I went to Europe in the late 60's I discovered that people there smelled more than they did in the U.S. I don't know if that is still true, but I assume in any case that people here in the U.S. are extremely conscious of body odor (check those TV commercials again); and so you will say you can't go around smelling more than the next simply CAN'T.
Okay. So underwear gets changed every time you shower, ditto socks. But check the armpits on the shirts. Did you know that if you hang them up in the closet to air out, they often will smell much better the next day? And pants can go a long time without getting smelly--they get dirty faster than they get smelly. Which brings me back to dirt: you and your children should cultivate habits of work and play so that you don't get clothes needlessly dirty. Don't let the Wonder Machine keep you from issuing the ultimatums your Grandma did. The bottom line here is, be critical of how fast you let "dirty" clothes pile up to get washed.
Second problem with laundry: people are letting the process of washing clothing jerk them around. I talked to a friend who has a big clothesline strung in her laundry room, because she pulls out so many things from the dryer after just a few minutes that she doesn't want to shrink. So, she has to wait around the dryer, then she has to sort through the load to pull out what she wants, hang it up, take it down again...
Another friend refuses to let her husband help her with laundry. Why? It's so complicated that the big lummox can't possibly get it right. There's the pre-soak, the stain remover--but not on THAT shirt--the delicates, the heavy-duties, don't put the nylon nightie with the socks, whatever!
Yes, my own Dad poured bleach directly onto the clothes, then started the water filling. Happened to ruin something my teenage soul was disgruntled about for weeks. But do we need SO much COMPLEXITY?
I have a washer and dryer--Kenmore's cheapest--that gives me very little choice. The water level is one level, period. So, I'm not tempted to throw one brassiere in to wash all by itself; I wait until the basket is full, and then do laundry. It lets me choose hot, warm or cold wash, but that's it. Rinse is always cold. There are no other settings, no delicate cycle. The Kenmore dryer has two settings, hot and air. I turn a timer on for however long I want, and when it's over, it stops.
I use the same detergent for everything; I do add Borax because the water is hard; I do separate whites from colored stuff, and I wash towels alone or with sheets or jeans (they don't pick up the lint); and I do use dryer sheets. Other than that, I don't fuss with it.
My philosophy is this: whatever I buy has to stand up to Standard Washing Procedure (even my husband can do it). If it's cotton and will shrink, I buy large. If it does shrink when it's not supposed to, I live with it or take it back for a refund. I don't buy the rayon skirt--or any article of clothing--that requires special handling. I no longer fool with dry cleaning, either--it all goes into the laundry, or I don't buy it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Be Still, my Soul

Henryk Hector Siemiradzki: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

"Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

"Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

"Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last."

~ Text: Katharina von Schlegel, b. 1697; trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897; music by Jean Sibelius. From the Presbyterian Hymnal.

I really love the hymn! It is ancient, it is calming, it rings true. Sometimes I get going a little faster than I can keep up with myself, and I need to chill--this picture and this hymn really do it for me. Nothing like the reminding oneself of the "big picture" to realign one's chi and get back into harmony with the universe again.

A black and white image of this painting was in a book called "The Children's Bible" that my grandmother gave me. I really liked it. I always wanted a "Jesus Patio" -- it seemed to have the right "Feng Shui" as it is called today. Dave Stewart and Marguerite had outdoor spaces that felt like this one, where thoughtful conversations could take place, insights and inspirations could come to us budding artists. May you find such a place yourself, to contemplate your place in the universe and make peace with your God. Your artwork will improve, as will your life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Where does the power come from?" (Chariots of Fire)

This sculpture is by Gerhard Marcks, who was a friend of Marguerite Wildenhain's (with whom I studied) and was her teacher at the Bauhaus. Modernist. Minimalist a la the Bauhaus "form-follows-function" mantra. Yet he captured a reality of some sort here. There is movement, personality. The whole point at the Bauhaus was to capture the Essence of something with the Least amount of effort. No Rococo, Gothic--ewwww! Simple, elegant. Whether that was a teapot or a seated girl, Marcks taught his students to "see" what was essential. Quintessential, in fact.

Marguerite had her students at Pond Farm take Wednesday afternoons off from wheel work and go sit in the shade of the oak trees and draw. We occasionally drew each other as models (plump models are best), but were usually tasked with difficult still lifes (a single leaf, a potato, empty wine bottles). What made the leaf "leaflike?" Or the potato "potatolike?" (It was stinkin' hard to make a potato not look like a piece of excrement!)

I am a cartoonist, cariacaturist, line drawer. I don't do shading or any such "fine fussy work." I chewed the erasers off pencils as a kid, so when I drew, there was never any going back and redoing! I had a tough time with the Pond Farm drawing afternoons. But I understood the concept of trying to see the bare bones of something--what few features gave a thing its thingness. My line drawings, while not realistic in any anatomical sense, convey feeling, emotion, character. Good, evil, sassiness, mistrust, rambunctiousness, longing--stuff like that--all with minimal line work. See "Familiar Faces" for examples.

Back to the sculpture: looking at the left forearm, for instance, there are only a few "planes" involved in expressing it. You see a flat plane on the top of the arm, another one to the side. You expect there would be a third one hidden from view. That's it. Did Marcks need to put in all the anatomical musculature that shows up in Michelangelo's David? No. "Arm" is there. You know it ain't "Leg," or "Piece of Lumber." It is "Arm."

There's a segue at the elbow, and another at the wrist, and these segues are pretty tricky--you can make them too complicated--then the next part is done, again, with very few planes.

Marcks' faces are usually bland like this one--guess he wanted the viewer to interpret the minimalist expression for themselves. I usually have more expression in my faces.

In Rodin's Testament (which Marguerite read to her students each year), he admonished his sculpture students to first establish the big planes, and the details "will take care of themselves." This advice is probably the best there is! Take enough time with the big chunky stuff. Get it right. Use the big tools. Don't even bother with the details until you are SURE your work is right. Then, go to the details. There's no rush! And, THIS is where the power comes from: getting the big planes right.

Well, that's my sculpture lesson for today. Go look carefully at a potato. Draw it if you want a challenge.

"Meat's Back on the Menu, Boys!" (from the movie Lord of the Rings)

Well, so much for remaining anonymous on the web! This is me, at Christmas 2011 in San Diego. My eyes are a bit crossed, but the retina is fine. Apparently I healed properly, or else my brain has accustomed itself to a couple of extra blind spots from the laser job scarring. The expression is typical.

So, now it is October 2012, I am still playing tennis. I have decided to declare victory on the house remodel/restoration; thus I have more time to slide things into the schedule that got left out for the last two years. Like CLAY!

Since this blog is entitled "Clay in the Potter's Hands" I might as well throw in a picture of my latest foray into the great, plastic dirty stuff:

I have no idea yet what her name is. I will figure that out once she makes it through the bisque firing.

I just signed up for a course in sculpture at the Green Valley Clay Studio. The class got canceled due to the teacher breaking her hip, but free time to do one's own thing sculpturally is still being offered, and I took the offer up. This piece got photographed after I spent about six hours on it (see my other blog, "Barb's Pots" for more photos of this one). Just kinda came to life under me hands...

Anyway, the title of this post describes how I feel after starting up with clay again! Missed it. Nice to stick a chunk on a work surface and start modeling and scraping! 

But I find that there is a lot of social pressure at the studio to hop right in and volunteer--like, teach. I am not really ready for that. I always have a suggestion handy, if anyone asks me a technical question, and that's how I like to "teach." In small doses! 

"Could you teach me/my friend/child/ to make pots?" used to make me shudder. I guess I still shudder at the thought of having to deal with an inquiry like that about clay work. 

"Why?" you may ask, puzzled. I guess the quick answer is, I'm proud and selfish, don't want to give away trade secrets. But that's bogus. More like, I am overwhelmed since I envision taking on an apprentice for seven years and having to feed and clothe him. Or her. I guess I think of all the thousands of hours spent drawing as a child/youth/adult. All the years of trying to make something decent on the wheel. All the glaze failures, cracked pieces, the interminably slow learning curve! And then trying to transfer this experience to someone else. It is an impossible task!

But, if I would just realize that most people, when they ask me such a question, merely mean, "Can you entertain me/my/friend/child for an hour with a demo, or walk me through making one miserable piece of crap that I can fire and put on the mantlepiece?" Then, ah then, I would be able to smile without shuddering at the huge responsibility, and say "yes." Or "no." Depending on whether I liked them or not, or had time. Pompous people get the "no," earnest and sincere people the "yes." Maybe.

There seem to be a lot of people here that earnestly and sincerely want to have fun playing with clay, and whatever they make, they plan to give to a grandchild. There isn't a lot of pretension, even if there may be creation of what I think is kitsch. So--I am right in my first answer to your question "why?"--I am just proud and selfish. Hopefully, in time I will mellow and be able to take on the teaching requests and hop in there to make someone's awareness of art a little better, to tap into someone's talent and coax it out, to forget the apprenticeship thing and just move someone one step closer to the light.

Here's a great quote apparently from the tennis great Arthur Ashe:

"Start Where You Are. Use What You Have. Do What You Can."

It's very Zen. I want to keep that in mind.  It would help me be a better teacher. Heck, it would help me in everything--tennis, sculpture, cleaning the bathroom, whatever!

Anyway. I have gotten back to CLAY, and it has not forgotten me. Sculpture -- gotta look at it as 3-D line drawings. I don't have to make stuff like Da Vinci (though I'd LOVE to), or Gerhard Marcks. I'm Barbara Szabo, and my thing is capturing character, simply.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Losing Sight

Time for another post. This sculpture was one I made of Zsofia Polgar, international master and woman grandmaster chess player at 14. I made it when I was studying chess with my husband and making pots at UCSD. I am glad I took this picture, because someone stole the sculpture before it was glaze-fired, or after it was glaze-fired but before I could pick it up. Alas...

I now sit, so many years later, in Green Valley where I can pick up the thread of playing chess. I may be playing chess more. I am already playing tennis more. I am enjoying, more than ever, doing things for the joy of doing them.

I also had a rude shock this week as the Mother of all Floaters (the eyeball kind) made its appearance in my left eye with attendant cloud of thousands of micro-floaters. Eye exam, and follow-up retina specialist eye exam, revealed that I had somehow torn my retina. Within 24 hours I had laser surgery, which is a biological welding job tacking the tear against the back of the eyeball so that further damage--retinal detachment--will hopefully not occur. I am now in the healing stage where we wait and see if the weld holds, and I may be allowed to read, and to go back to playing tennis (writing, being slower, does not require my eye to dart back and forth much). The floaters will resorb eventually and the current cloudiness in my eye will give way to my usual 20-20 vision.

Perhaps my incontinentia pigmenti (a genetic defect with which I was born) gave me weak retinas from the beginning, and the decrepitudinification of aging kicked in like a one-two punch to cause this completely unexpected and rare event. I do not suffer from nearsightedness (the main cause of retinal tearing), nor diabetes (the second most common cause). I didn't get kicked in the head recently. I just noticed the Motherfloater one day (a Sunday, my day of rest and worship) in the middle of the afternoon.

So I feel a bit philosophical. I don't know whether to write about my reexamination of life options (faced with a future of uncertain sight), my increased level of compassion for others with struggles, the sheer panic of contemplating eye surgery, my comfort at getting a priesthood blessing--or to write about how I came to understand and translate the sparse and unintelligible opthalmology jargon I found on the internet in terms of jello and coffee.

Jello and coffee sound good right now. It seems that the vitreous humor of the eye (nowadays shortened to "the vitreous") is a gel, which tends to shrink and to become more liquid with age. Picture a cup of jello. Turn the cup from side to side, and the jello goes with the motion. Picture a cup of coffee, and turn the cup from side to side. The coffee pretty much stays in the same place, while the cup moves back and forth (if you are one of the rare people who has not noticed this fact of physics, please go try it out yourself. You may substitute cocoa for coffee, of course). Notice, too, that although the middle of the liquid in the cup stays pretty much put, the liquid where it meets the inside of the cup is subject to lots more friction and torque.  By analogy, the eyeball of a young person is like jello and there ain't a lot of torque goin' on, but the aged eyeball, being more coffeelike, is undergoing more torque.

I am really trying to slide in the pun "torque is cheap" but I just can't figure out how to do it...

Anyway, the torque at the outside of the eyeball where the retina resides, flakes off little floaters but occasionally can cause a full-on tearing. Then, blood gets into the vitreous (that's the thousands of little micro-floaters I see) and the vitreous can sneak behind the retina and cause it to lift off the back surface of the eyeball--that's detachment, and it gets really serious. We're talking major go-under-the-knife surgery to attempt to repair that one, and to keep you from going blind.

Ah, yes, the nearsightedness. Nearsighted people have elongated eyeballs. Picture a cup of coffee in an oval cup. This is a thought experiment because where are you going to find an oval cup, really? You just have to figure that the torque and friction around the cup edge has got to be crazier than around a circular cup, and that's why younger people with nearsightedness can get retinal tears.

So, it would seem that older people shouldn't watch ping-pong matches. Nah, just kidding--retinal tears are not common among even the aged. But as a warning, here's this one--if you ever experience a Motherfloater GO DIRECTLY to the optometrist at Wal-Mart and get your eyes checked. I am glad I did, because time is of the essence, he referred me immediately to a retina specialist, I obeyed, I got an in-office laser welding job and the whole thing wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. It was a miracle, actually.

So why I put up a picture of a sculpture I thought of as some really nice work I did, which got stolen, is for the metaphor effect: You never know when something precious may disappear.

Next time, I may philosophize more, as I come to grips with reality as it continues to unfold. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Black Hole Principle, or "Tar Baby" Revisited

My acrylic painting, "Mad as Hell" (see two posts previous) sold in January 2010. I never did get around to making giclee prints of it. I realized that the Black Hole Principle was at work here as in many other places in life: it would have taken me so much time, effort, energy, and money to learn how to get giclee prints made, to make several at a time (since making only one wouldn't be cost-effective), and then to try to sell all of them in a different market than I'm used to dealing with as a potter, that I would not recoup my efforts in a financial way for a long time, if ever.

The Black Hole Principle in short: SOME THINGS AREN'T WORTH THE EFFORT. If you step over the Event Horizon, you'll just get sucked in. Do you recognize an Event Horizon for what it is? Can you just stop short, and enjoy the view AT the Event Horizon, instead of stepping over it?

My parents told me this long ago, but it has taken me a long time to understand the idea. I have a history of diving into various projects, relationships, and side trips that, in retrospect, gave me little to show for the amount of effort I put in. I am not against learning for the sake of learning! I am a big fan of it. However, there are areas where the proportion of one's life energy spent to value gained is too high. Maybe this fact is only seen well through experience--the older, the wiser.

I have recently read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin along with my husband, and we liked the book a lot. Much of it contains stuff we already knew and were practicing, but it's a good, concentrated book on one swell idea. The Black Hole Principle follows from its teachings: you really can spend way too much of your life on things of no value--that's when you've stepped beyond the Event Horizon and you wind up fighting uselessly to get back your life (or your money).

People take a job because they think they need it, but so much time is spent shopping for clothing for the job, spending money on clothing for the job, buying (and maintaining) a car to get them to & from the job, spending time in the car going to & from the job, then there's lunch, etc. not to mention taxes taken out of the money they get for the job--when they count the money in their hand at the end of the pay period, they sure ain't got much to show for it! Plus they gave away a third or more of their waking time to get it. BLACK HOLE ALERT! Maybe it's cheaper to skip the job and enjoy the forty hours doing something else.

Here's another example of the Black Hole Principle (one of many examples our government supplies us with): from Fox news April 14, 2010 we read that "Almost half the nation won't owe income taxes Thursday, thanks to the Bush tax cuts and thousands of dollars in refundable tax credits from President Obama. That's why America's income tax burden looks the way it does. The top one percent of tax payers -- those earning over $390,000 -- pay the same amount in income taxes as the lowest 95 percent of Americans combined. That group comprises anyone making under $150,000, according to the tax foundation." Does anybody notice that 95%--95%, mind you--of all the hassle, effort, and anguish that Americans go through at tax time every year trying to figure out their taxes (which is NOT easy) produces only the SAME amount of labor that a very few people at the top go through? What a waste of time! If taxes were straight 10% across the board, EVERYONE would spend the same amount of time on their taxes, and that amount of time would be a heck of a lot less than it is now.

But no, job security for the millions of CPAs would be endangered. Uh, oh, I'm starting to rant...

So what's a Tar Baby? Uncle Remus didn't know about black holes, but he knew about traps. I guess if you wanted to trap rabbits (pre-Havahart-era), you made up some weird-looking ball of tar that looked like a small person (today that ball of tar would have too much dioxin in it for anyone's safety, including the rabbit's). Curious animals would check it out and get stuck to it. In one of Uncle Remus' stories, Brer Rabbit did just that--getting madder and madder at the tar baby, hitting and kicking it, and of course, getting more stuck to it than ever--and ol' Brer Fox, who had made the Tar Baby, came along grinning and caught Brer Rabbit at the end. The moral of the story ran something like this about a Tar Baby: "de more you truck wit' it, de more you's stuck wit' it."

Fast forward and you have a Black Hole, pure and simple. Folks in Uncle Remus' day understood the same principle of wasting your time and energy and spiraling into despair because of these stinkin' traps. Do you recognize a Tar Baby for what it is? Can you stop short of messing with it?

Still, for people who "love a crisis," who don't feel that they're really alive unless they're struggling against something, there is no despair in Black Holes--that's their home territory, really. You know who they are if you spend YOUR time pulling them out of one Black Hole and they thank you but dive immediately into another one. If you do that, by the way, you are a "rescuer" but pretty much live in Black Holes yourself. However, you despair in them. Get a life.

But that would be a topic for another day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Great Recession

Oh, boy--another recession!

I started making pots on my own in Prescott, Arizona, in 1976. I still remember a woman looking wistfully at a piece I had at a show and saying, "I'm sorry, but I have to feed the kids." I felt demoralized but I couldn't fault her. In a year and a half, I worked really, really hard but slowly and surely went under financially. I finally packed up, tucked my tail between my legs, and went "home to momma." I didn't set up my pottery again until mmm, 1986 or '87.

But of course I was busy during the "rebuilding the bruised ego" interval. I didn't actually live with Mom but in the same small town she'd retired to. I had a house built (I found I qualified as an indigent person for a Farmers Home Administration subsidy loan to get a lot bought and a house built, which was built according to my own design pretty much)(that was a window of opportunity which could NEVER reoccur!), got into and out of a short marriage, did Tee shirt designs, computer graphics, stained glass; I tried hard to make it at art shows with my watercolor-and-inks, worked a year and a half as an advertising manager for a newspaper, was a Park Aide at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park -- lots of little stuff. I hated the 8 to 5 job at the paper. I think I'm allergic to deadlines.

But, I digress. That recession, right at the time I was starting to make my own way in the world, wreaked havoc with my self-esteem (or is it wrought?). I empathize with all those who are now emerging from college and finding their hopes and dreams (and expectations, even) are ... elusive.

Yet, the recession focused me. As an "artist type," I had never been interested in money, or understood much about what the point was of saving. But finding that earning a living in art was SO much harder than I thought it should have been made me rethink, sober up, and get downright miserly with every hard-earned penny. I should add that having the advertising job--which paid fine money and had great benefits (Copley Press), also focused me. Meaning, I wanted to save every cent so that I could get OUT of that job ASAP. Shudder.

Certainly, times eased: I got more of a pottery-buying clientele after 1987, my savings built up, I married a man with an astounding clarity about paying with cash and how to manage money, and the nation's recession melted away and turned into a boom. I--we--have made ends meet and then some, and I have been able to do serious pottery work without the devastation of having zero buyers. I have been able to give away pots.

And now, here we are again, whee! I feel I'm in the rockin' chair generation, shakin' my geezer finger and tellin' youse young'uns that it's all been seen and done before. Not that knowing that will make you feel one stinkin' whit better! What you will see is your efforts flow like sand between your fingers. The advice you got from people (who should have been more fiscally conservative like me) to go buy that condo and all the furniture to start your boomlet life with? Bogus! Now you're upside down in a mortgage, up the ying yang in credit card debt, and you're wondering if that job that you may or may not like is even going to be there for you next week.

I am reminded of the words to a song, "Blow Up Your TV, throw away your paper, Go to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches,Try and find Jesus on your own..." This time it might be, "Rethink your cellphone plan, trade down your Mazda, skip the new Ipod, eat more beans." The part about Jesus is still the same...

Anyway, you will hurt. You will experience doom and gloom. But it WILL focus you. It WILL make you ask what is important (good to figure that one out, young'un). You may take government handouts (welfare, unemployment, food stamps, or even bankruptcy). Hopefully you will realize that doing so is demeaning to your soul after awhile, and refuse to partake any more. Hopefully you will find your gumption, your core of iron, your truly independence-desiring spirit, and climb out of the hole you fell into in ignorance--even if you have to scrabble out by your fingernails--with wisdom and a lot more paranoia about all that Free Lunch that's been advertised through the last twenty-five boom years.

The precious flower that will have grown in all the pain, disappointment and anger is this: you will eventually be free to be yourself--even an "artist," if that's who you really are--because you'll know that even if you make a cruddy, meager living, you'll have been there, done that, and you'll know you can survive it. You will never be flattered away into working at something that's not really you for a bunch of money, because YOU AND MONEY HAVE HAD A LONG DISCUSSION, AND NOW YOU SEE IT FOR WHAT IT IS--JUST A MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE. You will never fear being poor, because you've had to go through it already. You will be unbuyable, unbribable, and confident in your abilities to improvise. Life will (at last) be yours.

This will not happen tomorrow, but will take years. We will be (this is my blogo-prediction) in this Great Recession or Great Correction or whatever, for at least another five years. Face it. Adjust. Have hope.