Monday, December 9, 2013

Website re-design for Paul Finley

I've been having so much fun reorganizing and redesigning a website for my friend, Paul Finley.

He sends the gift of music from his soul to yours. Motion and emotion ... his guitar tells the stories we love to hear. Listen now or you'll regret that you didn't find him earlier when you hear him on the radio someday.

Click the image below to visit his site, where you'll find a handy YouTube playlist. If you appreciate his gifts, then tell him so.

Encouragement is always worth sharing.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shaping Like Clay - Laity Lodge Artists' Retreat

After planting paper torches in the lawn for the group art project, Xiaozhou mentioned he was heading down to the studio. I offered to show him the way and asked if I could watch him work with clay and perhaps learn about the process. He was kind to agree. The experience would become one of the most significant of the retreat--to me at least.

I have long been encouraged by the imagery of a Master Potter molding me into the life for which I was designed, and with this fascination has grown an interest in clay and the skill of the artists who work with it. I’ve been hoping to watch a potter at work for some time, and this was my chance.

First, Xiaozhou demonstrated kneading the stiff lump of clay with a strong rocking motion and skilled hands. It folded like bread dough in a smooth curve, bulging out beneath his palms to be caught up again into the main mass on return.

Then we gathered tools, exploring like mischief in various cabinets and drawers until he felt sufficiently equipped for the task at hand. The wheel hummed in anticipation as he set the water to the side, grabbed a sponge and thumped the clay to the center.

Xiaozhou shapes clay with a full body rhythm--like music. Later I was told it’s because he counts revolutions as he works to keep the walls at an even thickness. The clay rose and fell, rose and fell as though it were alive, finally spiraling up, flexing and curving into a large and lovely vase, all the time echoing the rhythm of his internal song.

Time stopped, so I can’t tell you how long it took for him to finish. Just know the entire process was beautiful.

He plugged the top with a cork of clay to help it hold shape as he lifted it gently from the wheel, though it still bulged and caved a little on its way to the table. Then he set his mouth against the open top and breathed out a swift puff of air, and the minor depressions left by his hands vanished away. Well, it wasn’t the breath of life, but I couldn’t help but ponder the concept as he went to wash away the clay, saying, “You can’t work with clay if you’re not willing to eat a little.”

Then it was my turn. We’ll just slip past my awkward kneading efforts and the fact that I squashed the clay flat twice before it somewhat-centered on the wheel.

Sponge? Check. Clay? Check. Hands? Check. Skill? …. I accelerated the wheel.

Explaining how to slap the clay toward the center, Xiaozhou suggested I brace my left elbow against my side to hold the palm steady. The clay pulsed against my tentative efforts and knocked my whole body sideways, tossing me around like a feather--wait--water! But then I lost the sponge and he took over that part for me as I fought the clay into a writhing mound and wondered exactly how he had managed to make the process look so simple.

Wheel too fast--whoops! Nope--too slow. The clay sneered at my efforts to control it and insisted on thumping off to one side or another. Knowing something isn’t simple is very different from experiencing the fact.

“Like this,” Xiaozhou reached over and set his hands over mine. Like magic the clay shifted into place and obediently lifted into a tower at the center of the wheel. It did, indeed, know who was boss … and it wasn’t me, even though my hands were still the final wall through which the pressure passed. Oh, wow!

And then he took his hands away. The clay quickly realized I was in charge again and responded as could be expected to my poor management of its texture. Soon we were arguing over who got to say where center might be and how tall or flat the end result might become,... if any clay remained on the wheel, that is.

Calmly he continued to instruct me, adding water, carving off the escaping clay as it flattened on the wheel, reminding me to adjust the speed ... and there was some improvement, but not enough. Clay was vanishing off to the side at a ridiculous speed, abandoning any semblance of form or function. It knew very well I had no idea how to make it come back and join the rest.

Once again Xiaozhou set his hands over mine, and like before the result was instant compliance. The clay settled into a smooth column and glided gently apart as he guided my thumbs down to carve out the center. A bowl formed before my eyes. Smooth. Amazing. I wanted to tell him to keep it up, but he took his hands away again and I remembered I was supposed to be learning something about shaping clay myself … or rather, my need for more lessons.

Under my attentive invasion the shape managed to spread into a somewhat lumpy but acceptable form until I took things too far and thinned sections of the walls so much they couldn’t support themselves. I eventually removed the resulting object from the wheel as Xiaozhou turned to talk clay quality with a fellow potter who had arrived at some point during the process.

As I repurposed the object into a sculpture, I thought about the difference it had made to the clay to have knowing hands guiding my inexperienced touch. Even though I’m just plain foolish most times, somehow life keeps shaping into beauty around me.

Those moments in that studio became a vivid reflection of a deeper reality.

A new certainty has settled within, that the wise hands of the Master Potter are refining and correcting my every move, no matter where I am or what I do--and those hands never leave me to my limitations, though I often forget to trust that they are there.

My little project, cut, folded, carved, and shaped, sat in a bowed slump next to Xiaozhou’s flowing vase in a startling contrast of skill and style. And the sight of it made me smile. I wish I had taken a photo.

Instead, I requested permission to show you the above pot and a link to his instagram, where you can enjoy his new work as he posts it. Let him know when you find them beautiful. I'm learning most artists need to hear the words (out loud and from many) in order to believe that their works have worth to others, also.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Meeting Joey McGee - Laity Lodge Artists' Retreat


It’s amazing how quickly life stories pour between the guests of Laity Lodge.

Conversation circles were beginning to assemble as new arrivals wandered in and out of their various rooms. My friends were not yet in view, so I looked around for someone new to meet. Joey McGee happened by, offering a chance to talk more and experience why my roommate had spoken of him so highly.

I listened to his journey unfold, so different and yet so familiar. We all end up along various paths of the broken steps that always end up developing an awareness of need.

“Something more” becomes the question that can’t be answered. And every failed solution clarifies what the answer cannot be. The Master Artist breathes in the pulsing darkness of the wandering, and hovers over his masterpiece in the time and rhythm of interaction, without losing a moment.

Then the revelation draws near as the threads align and weave closer together. The realizations of his presence always feel so unexpected and true, like it was always somehow known, beneath the surface all along, waiting to be born. It must be believed. It is believed. He fills life.

Yet so often, along with the belief come the layers, the effort, the attempt to follow as others direct. Some life stories don’t uncover this space, but Joey spoke of it in the way I always wish I could,... of the realization that it is too heavy, a burden that cannot be borne. He spoke of removing the many packages and layers he had so willingly taken along with the belief and examining them to see what they really contained.

His gestures illustrated discarding the unworthy and untrue so his life path could be seen again in all its living beauty, arising from the stifled and dull ashes left by such crushing weight. It really is mysterious how and when this happens.

Joey’s face lit up as he spoke of the freedom he found along the way. Further up. Further in. And together we reflected the realization that we are still alive, somehow, at every step looking into the depth of the mystery and finding it greater and more exceptional than we thought we knew.

Somehow the path is always forward even when it feels backward and impossibly inverted. Simple and difficult have no definite border because it is always both, together. Joy and sorrow. Giving and receiving. Connection and disconnection. Almost like a pressure from behind and a pull from ahead are both necessary to the motion of life.

Yet our Designer remains the path, finger-painting his presence into time and tangibility so it cannot be avoided, though in our frustration we often try. I found him again in Joey’s story, amid the laughter and an awareness of a spoken bridge encompassing so much that happened between the words.

God, beyond all description, illuminating his fingerprints in yet another life before my eyes … and by this, giving me new hope.

I looked forward to the “song and dance … without the dance” that Joey promised to share later. I had to wait to hear his songs, but you can jump over to his site right now. His music vibrates with joy.

You'll want to own it, I think.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Beautiful Chaos - Laity Lodge Artists' Retreat


I wandered the pathways, reminding myself of the places I’d enjoyed the year before. The dining room. A promising fireplace at the patio. Cody center. Art studios. White hammocks swaying. Sheep statues? Anticipation pushed me toward frenetic activity, but I felt the 5 am wake-up as a steady pressure behind my eyes. Time to rest.

The stillness of the great hall enfolded me as I sat down at the piano to calm myself with an act of courage. Last year I only played once to that empty space. Reluctantly.… Badly.… And gave up quickly.

I would play until someone came, I told myself. And since everyone was busy arriving and finding rooms, it didn’t take much to persuade my fingers to take advantage of the moment and escape into the chaotic spread of notes. There is something about expecting nothing that lets me escape myself for a while.

It sounded better this year, like a miracle. I chased the patterns and rhythms across the keys, listening as the sound transformed from moment to moment. Unpredictable. Alive. Beyond my ability to resolve.

I found a new song and lost it into the shape of an old tune that has risen up in a constantly shifting echo over the year, a habit I try to break in search of new possibilities.

Chasing song is more difficult without knowledge of chords and scales. My fingers stumbled and suddenly the sound was new again. Beautiful accident! I tried to hold onto it as it slipped up an octave and crashed into a broken chord. Crazy.

I reached into the mess again, hoping to solve it before the whole thing crumbled to noise. Eventually I found a pathway through, back into the habit I can’t break. Where could I turn it onto a new route?

Someone was in the room. I glanced up and ended as I realized the presence was real and not a specter of fear this time.

“Beautiful.”

Her word surprised me. I don’t know how to accept it, yet. But here it is, recorded for me to ponder. Just as the abstract frustration poured out in ink lines were once called to my attention by this description, so now the crazy sound has also been illuminated for a moment. I can’t see how it happened, perhaps I never will. Yet there was beauty.

The journeys in my life that have begun with that word are some of the most unimaginable …

BEAUTIFUL

Friday, November 1, 2013

At the Threshold - Laity Lodge Artists' Retreat



I was one of the first to arrive, to my amazement, so I took my carry-on to my room then found my way out to Threshold, following directions in search of the narrow path just beyond the entrance. Tractors and trucks were clearing the field as I wandered up the trail. I felt the weight of the mechanical and human presence as I approached the structure, which glowed a soft cream in the sunlight, silent against the rattle of sound.

I laid my hands on the stone and felt its texture and solidity.… My fingertips remember that moment, though I didn't take time to absorb the feeling, thrust inward by the outside world, searching for the quiet I had hoped to find. As I stepped inside there was an atmosphere of rest, pressing the noise away from the front of my mind until it took up residence behind and outside my focus.

A place of peace.

The sky--blue--drew me in, inviting my arms to reach upward to the light, toward the stability of its presence. A touch of breeze slipped through the passage between the walls and wrapped my shoulders. I took a long breath in response and stepped forward, ducking beneath a portal that was quickly forgotten as my soul reached up, up, up into the circle of light above me. It was cool and calm in the tower even as the engines rumbled past.

Both fought for my attention, peace and sound, the audible contrast vibrating through the steady walls. For a moment quiet stayed with me, pressed the noise away and gave me freedom to focus up into that space and ask what it required of me. I absorbed the light and shadow. The high window beckoned like a promise of another timeless moment, a someday awaiting.

Sound rushed in, and with it the sensation of clocks ticking, squeezing me back through the portal, along the curving wall. I stumbled forward to settle upon the stone bench, open and closed, empty and full ... suddenly missing the others who would soon arrive, friends I anticipated with joy. Space gaped on either side like a nagging question.

Above, the blue caught upon clean lines of stone and I saw in that boundary an art.… Paint and mortar ... ink and sky ... stone and breath.... My hands traced the image as if it were mine for just a moment to express, to carry into the world outside.

I still hold the seed of that impossible, visual silence.

But then it was enough. Too much. Stories waiting to be told caught up and called upon me to escape into the future. Suddenly feeling my intrusion like a glaring flaw, I fled from Threshold, over the field, past the stacked stones, down the hill shadowed by branches and leaves, and out onto the road where dust lifted gently beneath my feet, as if to welcome me into a new journey.

The road whispered “come again” even as I arrived. Tires crackled over gravel as a vehicle slowed to pass.

I answered, “Yes. If possible, I will cross the threshold again and again, each time for a new story.”

Time slowed to inject the beauty in the cacti, the dusty stones, and the angled branches of the trees. My feet followed the short lane toward the fulfillment of anticipation that had brought me back to Laity Lodge after a very long year of absence.

As I walked, I wondered.

How can it be that I feel at home?






For further information about Threshold and Roger Feldman, the artist, there are documentaries and photographs at the Laity Lodge Website.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where have I been?

Well, let's see ... It's been busy.

1. I created a logo for a friend, Nick Kane, the LA Clown.... He performs on a very large wheel.




















2. I finished my free eBook, "A Simple Depression Toolkit" ... Click to download the file.

A Simple Depression Toolkit


3. There are more projects on my mind than I can keep track of, but I have every intention of setting up a sales page for my art prints soon. Hopefully within a month. (But no promises.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Give your best, freely investing out of your heart.

I'm repeatedly running into the same obstacle, no matter what I do in life.

I hate charging for things I would do for free. This is why we play "name your own price, so long as it covers my costs" when I sell you art ... and, it turns out, this is preventing me from selling anything on my new site, too. So far, anyway.

Now, I have a few minor solutions to the problem. It turns out that if it is "a product" like the prints I'll eventually make available here once my printer gives me his price list ... or, say, a mug at CafePress with my art on it, I have no problem charging the recommended prices. They are no longer the art I poured out ... they are objects with my art imprinted upon them. See the difference?

How this has translated to my new site is that I'm making the content and eventually the ebooks, easily downloadable and free to share, so as to encourage anybody who needs it. After all, it's more important to help someone than to sell something.

On the other hand, I need to sell stuff so I can pay for things like rent and food and stop depending on family to support me. So, I'll be creating tangible booklets containing the information from my site ... after adding and rewriting and generally turning-it-into-an-actual-book-instead-of-a-collection-of-blog-posts. Then ... I'll be making them available through a POD publisher at their suggested price.

It's all very odd, when I look from outside and consider the usual expectations and how people seem to think, on average. Inside, it's the only way to be and I don't know how to see differently.

So I'll continue choosing not to do anything unless it's something I'd do for free.

If you have to pay me to motivate me to do it ... then you're paying to receive lower quality work from me. Well, you would if I agreed to accept your attempt at motivation, that is. I'll just do the work for free, because I want to ... and then if you find it valuable, you can pay me.

I'm left trying to figure out this whole "make a living from your work" thing.

Do I attempt to add value to the world? Yes.

To individuals? Yes.

Do I expect to be paid for this?.......  Uh ...

I guess I need to be paid for it to provide for my family.

But the reason for doing anything in the first place is because it means something to someone ... the world is better for having done it, and that is enough of a reason isn't it?

If I contribute a lot of what I am worst at because it is expected or I'll get paid, and never offer my best because nobody thinks to ask or knows that is is of value to them, then of what worth is my gift?

So I focus on sharing what I have been given ... and when people say it is a gift, I am thankful that they see it too, that the beauty of what I offer is really more than I could have forced myself to contribute because someone expects it. It flows through from outside myself while being entirely my own.... If that makes sense....

This whole mentality is just too idealistic, isn't it? Guess I'll have to figure out how to live one way or another ... but I believe this awkward path is the best way forward.

Either I'll learn to think differently somehow ... or there is an alternative route that people usually don't consider.

In the meantime you can all have fun watching me stumble around trying to figure it out.

Oh ... and if you want to do something truly, incredibly amazing ... then share GlassHeartRepair.com with friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who are caught up in despair. Link it to college students who are struggling with life decisions. Post the URL where the broken-hearted share their grief.

And maybe even consider sharing your story of finding growth in the midst of a shattered world with the community.

This isn't just my story.

It's our story ... and how we encourage one another. Invest your story in the lives around you.

The weaving of our paths through life is a growing glimpse of the beauty beyond the veil.

Now I'm off to figure out whether I can offer Creative Hope Mentoring (That's one possible name for the personal mentoring I intend to offer, anyway.) for free and let people pay me if they feel they've grown .... or received value ... afterward. Do you think it'll work?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...