Melt, Mend, Meld

Melt-to cause to disappear gradually

Mend- to make (something broken or damaged) usable again; to heal or cure

Meld- the definition of meld is to cause things to combine or blend and become one thing or substance, a blend of various things.

  In the Northhomesteadeast, we still have a small scattering of snow piles, remnants of this past wicked winter.  It was brutal on many fronts and a true test of our wills.  In addition, right in the middle of it my family had a medical crisis, which resulted in a 16-day hospital stay for my husband.

  Just as soon as the hospital stay part was over, I suffered a HARD fall that wrenched my knee and body, leaving me with even more aches and pains.  I feel like I have been crabby most of the winter for one reason or another; my knee or feet hurt or the weather predicts snow–again.

   First off,  I would like to thank everyone for your prayers and meals and generosity during our recent medical crisis. We are now on the MEND hoping to MELD and focusing on the new normal life has given us.  We are blessed, we survived.  Now, if the snow would MELT my antsy husband can get back on his bike again! You see, his passion is biking.  For him, his passion is feeling the wind on his face and through his hair which allows him to lose himself in his thoughts on a bike trail. 

   I understand it. For me, it is losing myself in a drawing or painting, creating something from nothing.  I have always liked to draw.  It’s cheap and portable. Just a pencil and a piece of paper.  And it’s true, the more you draw, the better you get at it.  But I think I have also reached a point in my adult life where I go out of my way to create art challenges for myself just to see how I’m going to solve them. For me, this is the thinking that artists do; it keeps my brain alive and challenges my critical thinking skills, like Sudoku. (which I don’t do but hubby does.)photo 4   During this stressful time, one of the things that brought me great comfort was drawing.  For a while now I have hoped that I could get back to the point of life when I nine.  I loved drawing and could actually lose myself in drawing.  You know how that is, you are doing something so intensely that time goes by. You look up and you are not even sure of where you are or what time it is anymore.  For that small time, you have  disappeared to a world of your own creating.

Sublime.

   Joseph Campbell (1904 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: “Follow your bliss”, calling this altered state of consciousness “Bliss” state.  Others might say “Zen”, in pottery it is referred to as “becoming centered”.

 So that is how you get lost in a drawing.  On the other hand, maybe it is in getting lost that we truly find ourselves.

  It’s strange that my recent personal challenge brought forth the opportunity to have that kind of experience again.  I remember President Kennedy saying, When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.

  For me being able to say to myself, “for 30 minutes every day while you’re at your husband’s bedside you are going to let yourself go and enjoy drawing while he rests”, was a true lifesaver.  It kept me sane and recharged my batteries.

 That is one of the reasons I am so passionate about nurturing art in our children. Not only is art fun, it gives you creativity and problem-solving skills, and it can give you coping skills.  Learning to express yourself through the arts can give meaning to an ordinary day.  It really is not about whether you are good enough or not; or whether your things look nice or pretty, or not.  It’s about the experience that you have.   Another great thing about drawing is you get to use your imagination, which is wonderful.

 In the past year, I have definitely spent more time drawing.  In addition, I am rebuilding some good habits.  I turn away from electronics and internet.  I clean off my kitchen table and put some music on.  I may start with a doodle and then ask myself; what is it?  What do I want to make it become?  What would be the first thing I would need to draw to make that happen?  How can I convince others that this line, this Three Blind Micedoodle, is really a mouse? How about a momma mouse with babies?  Oh, she would need a baby carriage then.  What if she had three mice babies and they were blind just like in the fairy tale?  They would probably be squirming everywhere.  Would she really be so exasperated as to cut off their tails with a carving knife?

 So, it starts with pencil and quickly jumps into mixed media to make it even more three-dimensional, oh, and she’s an old school Italian mouse.  She wears black lace on her head, (is it her disguise?) or maybe she just came from Mass at the old Catholic Church down the block.  Did she pray like I do, for God to “either lighten my load or strengthen my back?”

 Drawing also makes you pay attention.  If you really look at something and you study it whether it’s a finger or a leaf of a plant or sunlight or how shadows bounce on a cup then you really pay attention.  You notice differences and details and it is a gift because you get to see beauty where once you might have looked and seen none at all.

 Like many people, we have been bombarded with snow this winter.  Piles and piles of it and although we are luckier than many Midwestern states, we are all tired of seeing snow.  One thing I realized is when you see that much snow and it never goes away I started noticing subtle color differences in the snow.  And not just yellow or ash gray (eww).   A closer look reveals undertones depending on the time of day how much sun is shining and what the weather is like. Sometimes it is a light blue or a pale lilac and a very soft cocoa brown color.  Then I noticed sometimes the white snow looks more like ivory or cream and that makes a difference because now I am interacting with the landscape and I am paying attention on a level that I was not before. 

 I first learned of this technique while studying the work of Frederick Franck. He was a painter, sculptor, and author of more than 30 books on Buddhism and other subjects who was known for his interest in human spirituality. He was a native of The Netherlands and became a United States citizen in 1945. He was a dental surgeon by trade, and worked with Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa from 1958-1961.

 His sculptures are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Fogg Art Museum, the Tokyo National Museum, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.   His major creation, however, was a sculpture garden and park adjacent to his home in Warwick, New York, which he called Pacem in Terris, or “Peace on Earth.” In 1959, Dr. Franck and his wife, Claske Berndes Franck, purchased for $800, the 6-acre property, the site of an old gristmill, which over the years had become a dumping ground. They opened Pacem in Terris to the public in 1966. More than 70 sculptures adorn the property, which is now operated by a nonprofit organization.

  I encourage you all to discover his work and to start paying more attention to the “little things” more closely.  The exercises in seeing that his work is based on are simple and  fun.  It is a game you can play anywhere much like “I spy”.  When you start noticing how many colors of green there are you start noticing there really is a lot of beauty in the world. 

  Lastly, I have some news from my studio. I was thrilled to have won first prize for one of my new mixed-media pieces in a very solid art show!  I have included a couple of sketches of my recent colored pencil works. Some of them are still unfinished. I am also developing a new drawing class for colored pencils that I am excited about.  My Art & Soul studio is back up and running offering classes for children and adults in painting, drawing, sculpture and sewing.  I am also a “teacher on the go” again.  I have recently become a registered Merit Badge Instructor for Boy Scouts of America and I am an experienced Workshop Instructor available for retreats.  Contact me, if interested.

 I have some fun art apps for your smartphones, if you have one. The first is Blenduko. It is fun and a great way to develop you “value scales” in art.  The other one you probably have already heard about is “Draw Something” which is a funny thing to play with among friends or with Internet connections.  

 I have also been working online with digital art using the Sketchpro program and my new Sensu digital brush, which is a very weird and interesting tool that I hope to play more with in the future. That is the thing about being an artist, you know we do not ever retire; we just keep looking at what is next.

 Books to recommend; The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 

Your Life Calling by Jane Pauley owl

Divergent by Veronica Roth

David and Goliath, underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants by Malcolm Gladwell (Surprisingly, underdogs DO win more often than not)

 Again, I want to thank everyone for your prayers and kind thoughts, meals and gift cards, and for not forgetting us. I know WordPress is a pain, asking you to join before you can leave a comment, but please do.  I love to hear feedback and make connections with other people. I hope that this post will encourage you to develop passion in your life about whatever excites you and “charges your batteries.”  I know that drawing is a great tool that can help that and it can be a beautiful art form in its own right.

 Creatively yours,

Dianna Mammone

Things Revisited

Where to start?

I have put off writing this blog entry for a variety of reasons.  Not simply being busy or overwhelmed, well, maybe overwhelmed.  The topic I was going to write about was “things revisited”.

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In progress

The idea that the skills and experiences we learned as children can serve us well as adults.  For instance, remember when they had Home Economics class in school?  The class that taught you a bit about how to cook and sew.

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Lillie, Mixed-media

I was stubborn and rebellious in my 8th grade class taught by Mrs. Bain.  (It’s funny, you always remember the really good or bad teachers by name.  Mrs. Bain was a bit of both).  She was into precision and I just couldn’t deliver.  I thought the skills she was teaching were equivalent to algebra, something I would never really use in life. She taught us how to make a ridiculous salad that was supposed to look like a candle for Christmas with a banana, pineapple and maraschino cherry.  Who lives like that?

But, the sewing thing got my attention.   Maybe it was the idea of making a two dimensional thing into a three dimensional thing, trans formative and creative.  My seams were uneven, my zipper puckered, and yet she taught me how to hem pants, sew on buttons, and make an apron and a skirt.

I have continued sewing throughout my life, in both traditional and non-traditional ways.  I have made art dolls, aprons, my children’s clothes, and once when I was very poor and couldn’t afford curtains I ironed brown paper bags open and sewed them into cafe curtains.  They looked so nice people were envious. (smile)

Over the summer, I usually ask my drawing students if they want to learn something new since we usually have more in-depth studio time.  Some of my drawing students this year asked me to teach them how to sew.  These sewing classes have kept me sane and I’m having so much fun!  My daughter was never interested in sewing, so in a way this is kind of revisiting this craft. It also helps to find kids between the ages of 11-14 who are creative and into discovering new things.  And so, we sew.  Flannel pajama pants, pillowcases, banjo straps and catnip toys.

That’s what the topic was going to be about, and then

The sudden, unexpected reality that my husband is having a serious health crisis that will require surgery.  Our lives are blown apart. We are terrified and shocked as we wait for a surgical date.  We clean, paint, bike, and repair around the house to keep busy. We read and pray and do anything we can to distract us from our fear.  And we wait.

We are caught in limbo, not knowing exactly when surgery will take place or what the recovery will be like.  We can’t make plans or commit to anything because we just don’t know.  Yet, life goes on.  We get up, get dressed, put one foot in front of the other and muddle through our lives, numb.

So I’ve put off writing this because I couldn’t figure out what to say.  I guess I could just not even mention it but for some reason, to me that doesn’t seem honest and I will tell you why.

I teach a child that has severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Really, seriously. I  talked to the parent and asked her how I could help her child.  She said that the psychiatrist told her that whenever she makes a mistake to bring it to the attention of her child and show him, “see, even grownups make mistakes.”  The Dr. explained that our culture has become so “edited to perfection” that kids don’t have positive role models that show life is sometimes a struggle and unpredictable.  We need role models to show the reality of humanity.  That there is joy, but also despair. That we get frightened, that we struggle, that we persevere.  And so, this blog entry will perhaps share my humanity.

I’m glad I have my Faith. Much like sewing, it has been something I had early exposure to and struggled with.  At times feeling much like sewing; bumpy and uneven, messy.  My Faith today is hardly recognizable to the religion I was exposed to in my youth.

A few years ago, I learned about sword making.  I learned how the metal is heated and tempered repeatedly making it stronger each time. Tempered, what a great word. As defined by Webster, brought to the desired hardness or strength by heating and cooling. I feel that way about my faith these days.  It’s strong from years of questioning, searching and studying. Tempered.  In sword making, realigning particles on a molecular level.

Does this make any sense?  This idea that things we are exposed to as children can revisit us as adults and make us stronger, more skilled? More marketable?  More creative?  Can it make me more as brave as Malala?

So, this is my blog post.  This entire, wandering miasma.  I can’t put a happy bow on it or tie it up pretty.  It is what it is.  However this idea of “skills revisited” intrigues me.  Before I sat down to write this, I had a dozen examples in my brain and obviously, that file has been deleted.

I’m sure as I continue to work in my studio getting ready for Christmas shows that I will start writing them down.  In the studio, I am busy painting large wooden Father Christmas sculptures, snowmen.  And, with my friend and student Lisa, we are busy firing the kiln with plates, trays, candle holders and more.  You can see more pictures on my Facebook page and email for show information if you are interested.Thanks for listening, prayers welcomed.

 

Art & Soul Studio, A Place to Grow…Creatively

In every place I have ever lived, I have had a studio.

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When I was 11, I was allowed to move my bedroom downstairs into our finished basement.  The first thing I did was to ask to use an old white porcelain kitchen table.  I pushed the table into a corner and made a sign that said, “Studio”.  Now, fast-forward thirty years when my husband and I moved into our house.

Having apprenticed with a gifted potter for years, I bought my first used kiln, built a wedging table and pulled in a sturdy worktable into our unfinished basement.  I set about making my dream of having a real studio, rather than a kitchen table, a reality.

It was dark and damp with gray cinder blocks, with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.  The first year I realized that even with a space heater, it would be too cold to work in during January or February.  And so my “Art & Soul Studio, was born.

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slab roller, kiln

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wall mounted extruder, worktables

The first time we fired the kiln I remember my husband and I sitting on the basement stairs talking until early in the morning, hugging a fire extinguisher in case the kiln blew up.  Those early years I worked on developing my pottery and studio.  I was young and had the energy to work hard until early in the morning.  The isolation was hard and I desperately missed the water cooler conversations at my old job.

Then someone asked me if I could teach them what I knew  and that’s how my studio developed into a nice, creative place that served not only my needs but the needs of others.  In addition to teaching adults and. “firing for hire”, I also began Saturday morning kids’ classes.  I was lucky enough to have some of those regular students 5 years or more!  Several went on to art school, one is a biology teacher, another  a brew master in California.  Now they come back with their children and we make handprints in clay.

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Along the way, my daughter arrived and had her own shelf in the studio at age 3.  Working at home allowed me to be at home a majority of the time for both of my kids.  I worked around naps; throwing mugs in the morning, adding handles in the afternoon.

I always have loved to draw and I studied drawing and printmaking in art school. I naturally incorporated my drawing and painting skills into my clay work and it’s reflected in the classes I now teach.photo(125)

Several years ago, my husband and I toyed with the idea of buying a house that had an area that would provide a heated studio space.  We looked at several houses and then decided to remodel our basement instead.

One of the things I was serious about was to have adequate electrical, so we upgraded to 240 electrical and I stood in the studio space and told the contractor EXACTLY where I wanted the electrical outlets placed.  Lighting was an issue.  I wanted it bright enough to work by and a mix of fluorescent tones to enable us to see color more accurately.  It also included a bathroom and had a press-existing laundry sink. And, thankfully, it has heat!

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I wrote my mission statement on the door and had it blessed. That was about ten years ago. My studio has been in use ever since.  In the early days, I was throwing a lot of work on the potter’s wheel but over time my wrist took a beating and I decided to stop repetitive work and change to hand building.  I also discovered polymer clay, which ignited my passion for color and I  returned to school to study painting.photo(123) (Mobile)Over the years, I realized that my personal style was changing.  Although I love and respect clay it no longer satisfies me as it once did.  I have evolved into a mixed- media artist who combines drawing, painting, bead work and resin into whimsical one of a kind artwork.  I still teach ceramics and also painting, drawing, and sewing classes weekly. Several private students round out my schedule and I am a nursery school art teacher two days a week.

To accommodate everyone’s needs I rearranged my studio into two “zones”. The front zone is the teaching/working space.  The worktables can be separated to accommodate a maximum of six people at one time.  I have a clay extruder (much like a giant cookie press) and a slab roller.  The cubby shelves provide storage for clay pieces waiting to be kiln- fired.photo(134)

The front part is designed as a teaching space.  I once tried separating the class section from my personal office/work space by hanging a shower curtain.  Dreadful mistake.  The school cubbies that I bought from a church bazaar are so much better, don’t you think?  (A note, telling people not to touch the pottery accompanies the colored ribbon). The top of the cubbies provide some storage but also serve as a nice place to set up still lives for drawing.  The Halloween still life is really cool.

I have to change over from clay to drawing so my ceramic students work on canvas sheets that can be washed and their supplies are stored in a designated area.  The tables need to be wiped down thoroughly and floors swept before the next class. Image

The cubbies are both a visual and physical separation.  I have a tendency to just dump business stuff in my space.  I really need to work on that.  A friend once said that she noticed her studio was much cleaner when she was working in it rather than dumping stuff to be put away later. I agree.

I share this space with my cat who has a bed on my desk and my husband who helps any way he can.  He respects what I do and that means the world to me.  And my adult children pop in and out of the studio and over time have come to be part of an extended, blended family with my students.

At times I am overwhelmed at keeping my studio clean and serviceable and yet having it workable to suit my needs.  Due to my teaching schedule, it is often hard to leave things out “in progress”.  There are times when I resent having to clean my studio so others can create.  That’s normal.  This is my business and everyone has something about their business they don’t like.                                                                                                                                                                  .photo(139) photo(128) photo(129)

When I start getting jealous, I know that the answer is to carve in some creative time for me, ideally when I can get a 12-hour window to be creative, where I can leave things out while I work on them.  It is hard sharing your studio with others;

it’s all about balance.  So, this balance sits on the room divider constantly reminding me.  photo(131)

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I inventory all my supplies twice a year so I can use those hidden items and not over buy. Once a year I try to have an open house that involves a quick “make it- take it”  with my studio flier and class schedule.

I have participated in the Empty Bowl project for over 20 years.  (see link)

http://www.emptybowls.net/

People have said that my studio provides opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, to critique and have your work critiqued by fellow artists, helping me (as well as others) to grow.  A friend recently told me that my studio is “a place where each person’s unique talents are invited to flourish. It is a place where ART lives and happens in ways you may least expect! “.

Over the summer, I offer longer “workshop session” where people can explore subjects in depth.  I fill out the week with private students and I teach art outside my studio in a nursery school six hours a week.

When I feel or sense that people are too stressed or grieving I try to invite them to come to the studio, no charge.  After 9/11 I made sure people could come and just hang out, or do clay work, or whatever their creative expression might be.  Every year I mark that occasion by displaying the sculpture I created that day that bears witness.

I know every single day how lucky I am to be living this life.  And I try to honor it by serving as both Sanctuary and inspiration to others, it’s a sacred trust.  I try to give back to the community any way I can.

I started out as a kitchen table potter and I know I could go back to that, but while I’m here I want to make the most of this beautiful, creative life.

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