Wednesday, March 14, 2018

toxic impatience

I got my new studio keys about three weeks ago and have been completely moved in to my new space for about a week. There have been many hurdles to overcome and the list is still long. The first thing I did when I had the keys in hand was to go in and pull up the gross, stained, stinky industrial carpet. What was under there? Perhaps I would find buried treasure in the form of a hardwood floor? What I found was... another layer of even worse carpet, that was glued onto ancient linoleum tile, which was glued onto a wood floor of some kind. As I contemplated the thousands of dollars this was about to cost, Sara Paloma's husband, Tom, immediately started doing some research and came up with the idea of using plywood sheets as a floor. He even volunteered his Sunday to help me and my husband install it, right over the carpet. Kind of genius.


 I'm not going to get into the other pending issues such as the electrical (needs to be upgraded) or the ugly fluorescents that make me feel mildly suicidal (just mildly, not enough to start planning anything), the floor to ceiling windows that leave my workspace completely exposed (anyone ever played around with that window glaze in a can?) and my general sense of dislocation and discombobulation. Frankly, buying a house and moving to a new city has been nothing compared to moving my studio.

Then there was the actual moving part. The truck I ordered was not big enough, which became apparent after the movers were about halfway through filling it up. Then, I locked my keys in the studio when we were about to leave, requiring an emergency rescue from my landlords who, thank god, answered their phone on a Sunday morning.



After that it was multiple trips with a friend's borrowed truck to move more of my studio stuff. One day I loaded the back with my Ikea lockers and a table and made my way back to Vallejo. Once I started unloading the truck, I realized something horrifying: one of the lockers was missing. No, I didn't leave it behind, it blew out of the back of the truck. This despite the fact I had plenty of tie-downs and I was even silently congratulating myself on really getting the hang of tying stuff down as I secured the back of the truck before leaving Oakland. I immediately completely freaked out. Like, bad. I'm going to cut to the end of the story: it didn't kill or harm anyone, and it didn't cause an accident. But it could have.

This event forced me to reckon with something else that has been shadowing me over the past weeks: my toxic impatience and general lack of care when I'm trying to accomplish tasks. My body is currently covered in bruises because of running into things and bashing myself during both moves. I had a nasty blood blister on one of my fingers from hitting it with a hammer. I've tumbled off of ladders and down stairs trying to do too much. Even before this losing-a-locker incident I was telling myself to be more careful, I was going to hurt myself if I wasn't. Instead, I almost hurt somebody else, which is far worse.  

After I recovered from that whole thing, I have been doing the work it takes for to me to accept that things are kind of fucked right now, and that's okay. In fact, it's nothing. All of it will taken care of in a timetable not of my preference, and I will somehow survive. No more rushing, no more pushing harder than necessary.



Monday, February 19, 2018

it's up to the kids

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out about the Columbine shooting. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were checking out a fitness club we were thinking of joining in Oakland, and we were getting a tour of the facilities. There was a television on over a group of treadmills, and I could see that there was something very wrong happening on the screen. There were kids jumping out of what looked like a school building, and that building did not appear to be on fire. Other groups of kids seemed to be running for their lives, flanked by police and people in SWAT gear. I stood there, watching the TV, while I slowly started to absorb the information, this event that had taken place just a few hours before.

The horror and diabolical nature of that shooting has stayed with me all these years, as it has for many. The mass shootings have continued, gaining in velocity and violence, with shooters seemingly using Columbine as a point of reference. Our societal response has taken on an equally horrifying and repetitive nature. An iconography of grief and outrage, familiar to all, played by our media for consumption and diversion.

The result is a peculiar numbness that has taken hold. It comes from the lack of change in our system while all indicators point to an overwhelming need for change. It's a system that has ground to a halt when it comes to addressing the realities of violence and guns in the United States.

I don't know what it is about the shooting that just happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but I felt it right away this event could shift the dynamic, that an opportunity may have been created. The only people who have any moral authority in this situation to force some kind of change are the kids who have been affected by school shootings.  They are smart enough-- kids today are so damn smart-- to realize the grownups aren't doing their jobs, and haven't been for a while. The people in charge have given up and given away their power, to corporations, to lobbies, to anyone who promises to help them keep their jobs. It's the kids who have to lead.

I hope we are at the beginning of a major youth revolt. All of the pieces are in place: the adults who are running things are out of step with the younger generation on just about every issue that matters, and they are making decisions that risk the future. The young people know it. They are equipped to do something about it, and I believe they will be formidable. Their passion and level of articulate rage puts to shame the one-dimensional, paper thin assurances of our governing bodies that they will consider change. I don't think it's up to them anymore, they have already lost everything that matters. It's up to the kids.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

short takes

I have so much I want to write, and exactly no time or space in which to write it all at this particular juncture. Here are some short takes, and at some point in the near future I will be able to be more expansive, more reflective, and say some more. But for now:
  • I found a new studio in Vallejo, in the Old Town area directly across the street from Temple Art Lofts. It is just a tad smaller than my old space, and just a tad more expensive, but it feels just about right. It looks and smells like an insurance office with a slight mold problem (I am chalking that up to being all windows on one side with the door being closed for months while the owners find a new tenant) and I plan to do some major transformational work on it over the next 2 weeks. Sage will be burned, spells will be cast, carpet will be pulled, and contractors harassed. Wow, that's a poem I think.
  • In my spare time I have been working for a friend of mine as a hired gun, throwing production pottery for her restaurant tabletop business that has been in the weeds on orders. Remember last year when I was so fucked up over my mom's death that I thought I needed to get a job? Well, I didn't necessarily get one, but working as a potter mercenary--- which I may put in as "occupation" on my taxes this year--  is the closest I've come to legit employment in almost 20 years. And it's not even close to legit,  just a day here and a day there when I feel I can spare a day to make some real bucks as I try to figure out what the hell I'm doing next. This gig has reminded me of a few things:
    1. The joy of throwing pots.
    2. The importance of asking for help. My friend waited until she was having nervous breakdown before she asked me to help her, and implied the she "knew" it was beneath me to do this kind of work. Little does she know that this work is so healing for me right now, and it gives me such pleasure to not only help a friend, but get paid quite well while doing so.
    3. The satisfaction of mastery, of becoming aware and awake to endlessly repeated acts and finding something new to appreciate. When I go in to her studio I usually throw over a hundred items and when I leave my mind is empty and I feel totally calm.
  • I read a book that I think all people-- not just artists-- need to read, The War of Art. It says a lot of things I've already said, time and time again, about the craft of creating stuff, and it's written by a guy who has done the work, and it's a good reminder to me on how to get shit done. You can read it in a few hours and it's well worth it. Though there was one thing that really annoyed me about this book, and it's a reflection of its time, published in 2002, which in current warp speed time is basically 100 years ago. The author uses "she" in place of "he" a lot, to show that he understands women make art too, and are probably the biggest audience reading his book. And that's all well and good and inclusive. But almost every example he uses of people actually making art or otherwise making things happen-- you know, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Maugham, Tiger Woods, and about 20 other examples that I don't have time to look up while I write this-- are all men. And right about now I'm pretty sick and tired of reading about men's accomplishments. We know, we know. Dear Steven Pressfield: time for a second edition.
  • I have been really happy lately. I don't understand a lot of things, including my own moods, but I have been finding a lot of happiness the past few months. I love my new (old, very old) house. I love that my husband and I, who are consummate slackers, managed to buy it together without fighting, and we are fixing it up together without drama. I am proud that I jumped through every hoop the bank put in front of me and got the money we needed to make it happen. I love that I am in a new community that is totally strange to me, and I am an outsider. I love that I am meeting lots of new people. I love planting a new garden. I love the motorcycle club that is two blocks from my house that hosted a rally on saturday night with dozens and dozens of riders on their stupid Harleys making so much noise that I woke up in the middle of the night confused about what the sound in the air was. I think I'm starting to get it. Life is hard, but it's also limited. The stuff that I stress about basically doesn't matter. My people matter the most, and they are good, which means I'm good. For now.
That's probably enough for now. I'm going to be moving out of my studio over the next week, and then I will find some new things to write about. Here are some pictures:

one of 40.
a peaceful domestic scene.

new studio.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

moving studio

The idea of giving up my Oakland studio to move everything to Vallejo has been a difficult decision for me. For one, my studio rent is incredibly cheap, way below market. My landlords have essentially been subsidizing my business for many years. So giving up my beautiful, high-ceilinged, light-filled inexpensive space seems really stupid. Part of me wanted to keep it just to have it, even if I wasn't using it every day. But... I've been here for 20 years, and I believe that sometimes you have to give up great things if you want to make room for different great things in your life. So, I'm giving up my space, which will be taken over by my close friend, Sara Paloma.


Sketch from the downtown Vallejo streetscape project, 2012
I'm still working at my studio in Oakland since I could not handle moving house and studio at the same time. Gotta phase it out. And the commute, which basically starts at about 60 minutes a day and can easily triple that depending on traffic, is utter hell. Hell! I realize now that keeping the studio was never really in play, because there is no way I'm dealing with a commute. At this moment, the plan is to move my studio into our downstairs area, where I have about 300 square feet to work with, a major downsizing for me. I've also been looking at commercial storefronts in the "Old Town" of Vallejo, which is very cute. The City obviously put some planning and money into this area and I would be thrilled to have a studio there. There are not a lot of shops or activity going now, but it will soon and I would love to be a part of that, just like I was in Oakland.

I hesitate jumping into a commercial space. I was really looking forward to not paying rent for a while. This last year my business has been very slow while I crashed and burned after my mother's death, and I would like to have as little financial pressure on me as possible while I try to get my little boat righted again. Buuuuuuut... I also want to be a part of this new Vallejo life, and meet people, and hustle, and spending all day at my house does not seem like the way to do that. If you are hustling and only your cat sees you, are you really hustling?

Your hustle puts me to sleep.

I'm not above asking the universe for some help or insight, so I asked, very nicely, "Please tell me what to do!" The only thing I got was that it doesn't matter whether or not I get a new studio or work in my own house, the only thing that matters is that I go where I can create and make myself happy, and I can do that in either place. Not exactly the definite answer I was hoping for, but it's a start.

By the way, I will be having a major moving sale Feb 10, both online and in person at the studio in Oakland. If you want to be notified of the sale, sign up here.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

leaving the O for the 'Jo

Back in the spring of 2015 I wrote about considering leaving Oakland, and California altogether. Well, it's done: my husband and I have left Oakland. We managed to buy a place on the outer edges of the Bay Area in Vallejo, and the last 2 months have been a scramble to work on our little fixer-upper (virtually nothing actually got done) while packing up our lives in Oakland. As my husband likes to say, we have left the O for the 'Jo-- pronounced "ho". We spent our first night here on New Year's Day.

How the hell did this happen? My husband has been chomping at the bit to buy something for years. I have always been reluctant because I hate anything that rings of adult responsibility-- having children, dogs, and mortgages being my top three things to avoid at all costs. On New Year's Day last year, I asked my husband is he had any special goals for 2017, and he said, "I want to own a piece of property by the end of this year," and I nodded my head to look supportive while thinking to myself that there was no way that was going to happen. 

A month later, my mom died, and when I was finally able to come back to Oakland in the early spring, I suddenly felt done with it. I literally said to my husband when I was getting out of the car after driving home from Washington, "I don't want to live here anymore." It's hard to describe how I was feeling. My mom died, and I felt like my old life was just over, and I didn't feel any sense of attachment to it anymore. Every small thing that had been grating on me in my life-- my jackass landlord, my inconsiderate upstairs neighbor, our cute but falling-apart apartment, and a host of other things-- suddenly was completely intolerable. I needed to make a change, I couldn't keep coasting on my current situation. 

By chance, we had a project in Vallejo a couple of weeks later, a town I have driven through on the freeway a thousand times but have never stopped and visited. I was immediately intrigued by the town-- the waterfront, the views of the Bay, the downtown with beautiful old buildings and not a lot going on, which recalled Oakland in the 90's. It also has the same rough edges that Oakland used to have before it got all upscale. Then there were the sweet neighborhoods and cute homes: Victorians, mid-century bungalows, pre-WWII stucco homes, Spanish Mediterraneans, and cottages. My radar went off when I realized that many of these homes were for sale in the $350,000 range. Now $350,000 is a shitload of money, I am aware of that. But my brain has been bent by living in the Bay Area for too long, so to my mind $350,000 for a home is CHEAP. I found a realtor and we got to work.

As it turned out, about a thousand other people had the exact same thought. We looked at house after house, every single weekend, putting in offers, writing letters to home owners telling them how much we loved their home and what good and interesting people we are, trying to get someone to sell us their house. People who live in normal housing markets are shocked that this is a thing in California, that potential buyers basically have to sell themselves to owners by writing letters about why they should sell their house to us. Yes, it's thing and this is the ridiculous world I live in.

Finally we found a house that no one else wanted. A home that did not photograph well in real estate listings and full of junk from the previous owners. There was a catalogue of wallpaper samples in one of the rooms from the 1940's. It smelled funky and the bathroom was scary. It had not had anything significant done to it since the 80's. The yard was overgrown and wild. No one had lived in it for years. It was also tens of thousands of dollars less than anything else we looked at, so we casually put in an offer, which was accepted. My first reaction when our realtor told us they took our offer was not joy, but "oh shit". OH SHIT WHAT HAVE WE DONE?! My natural disinclination for adult responsibility kicked right in.

I could write a whole blog post just about going from the "pre-approval" phase of a home loan to actually getting a loan. I thought getting pre-approved meant something, that the hard work of proving you are worthy of a loan was done. WRONG. Pre-approval basically means that you have been assessed to be alive, employed, and in possession of a bank account. That's it. For real and full loan approval there are a hundred hoops to jump through, and I had to jump through hundred more because of my self-employed status. My loan officer has a name any porn star would be proud of, and we talked daily for weeks. And I did not flip out once, except at the very end when I squeezed out of few tears of frustration, but I got us that fucking loan. At 47, I am now officially an adult.

I'm going to tell you about our house now: it's one of the cute little stucco homes on a street with
almost identical homes, all built around 1934. It has fantastic light, hardwood floors, great ceilings, and a sweet archway between the living room and the dining room. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom. The kitchen has the original cabinets and tile work. The living part of the home is on an upper level, and then the garage and a whole unfinished downstairs is on a lower level. My studio is going to be there. I'm not even going to start in on the whole moving-my-studio thing right now, because I'm trying to stay sane. The yard has persimmon, pomegranate, avocado, fig, and an orange tree. Our mortgage is less than what we paid in rent to our former landlord.

I'm writing this on my second full day here and my sense of disorientation is still very high. My closest friend is a 13 minute drive away, which is far for me. I don't have a single friend in Vallejo yet, though I've met some very nice people. Also, today would have been my mom's 70th birthday, which is adding to the overall weirdness of the day. But I also feel like I belong here, and this is going to be a fantastic home for us, and I'm excited to start this new life.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

time to teach

For this of you who are interested in workshops things, I will be teaching a workshop in Sonoma (yes, the Sonoma in the wine country) October 14th and 15th. I know I should announce these things more ahead of time, but my train is still off its tracks and I'm flying by the seat of my pants these days. That's just how it is. The class is pretty full, but there are some spots, so sign up here if you are interested in how I do my surface design. I promise I will answer all questions, show you all the things, and we will also drink wine. Not too much wine, but enough to flush our cheeks and feel that all is right in the world.

I have resisted teaching for many years, even though I love telling people how to do things. I think mostly because I like to keep my own schedule and I don't like outside forces imposing on it. And I'm afraid the more I teach, the less time I have to work on my own things-- I don't want to become that artist who is constantly traveling and teaching with no time to create.

 Also, I will be a beginner and there is a chance of sucking, so I am scared too.

But all of the sudden I'm feeling more open to the idea-- of teaching, of giving up some of my studio time, of meeting people in person and sharing what I've learned. Also, it's good to be pulled out of my studio orbit. Cultivate some new sources of inspiration. Right now I would even take a job teaching a weekly class, something I would have literally run away from even a year ago. I think maybe I just need more stability in my life right now. Things to lean on.

Any teachers out there who have any advice for me... hit me now!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

drift

I had a big energy surge in May and June to get ready for the Palo Alto show. While I didn't feel like
I was able to bring my whole heart to the work, I was happy with how everything looked in the end. And I did well at the show, so I felt like the intensity I had to bring to get it done was worth it. But since the show ended I have been drifting. I'm told over and over that I am allowed to drift for a while after you lose your mom, but it makes me feel weird. I'm an achiever and a do-er and putting that aside to be sad is adding to the overall out-of-body experience of this year.

The only thing I am doing "right" is taking care of myself physically. I do my yoga, I take my walk, I do the meditation, I eat the good food. I drink too much beer but oh well.

I was thinking about my mom as I was walking through Mountain View Cemetery this morning, which sounds really really sad but the cemetery is one of the most beautiful places in Oakland and is great for walking.

I was thinking about how many people have said to me, "Your mom is still with you." I know people just want me to feel better, or are trying to reassure me somehow, but I don't feel like she's "with" me. She's just in my head right now. Is that what they mean? I wonder what she could possibly be doing because she is obviously not hanging around here in any way. What I would give for a haunting.

I had the thought that the best thing about being dead is the complete lack of consciousness of the world. You don't have to care about injustice, or insane floods, or the way we are slowly destroying ourselves and the planet, or the many millions of small sadnesses that people are coping with every second of every day.

My mom said that the best thing about dying was the fact that she wasn't going to have to live under a Trump administration.

Then I thought that the best part about being alive is the ability we have to create, and that is the only good reason to be alive-- to make and create things that sustain life in a whole hearted way. And how lucky I am to still be here and be able to do that, and that I have to make the most of my ability to do that now while I still can. All of the gravestones around me were a reminder that everyone thinks they will live forever and have all of the time in the world. But really....


I want to get back to work. I'm trying really hard.