Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas everyone! I've cleaned up the last dish and put away my cookie making "stuff" and yawned way too many times. In a few hours I will get up to prepare for worship at our church this props to deliver, just helping with mime makeup.

I'm thankful for the words of encouragement, wisdom, and art experiences you all have shared with me this year. Looking forward to the new year which arrives in one week and the continued art journey.

God Bless,

Ihumwa village potter

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ihumwa Village Potters

Ihumwa village potters

 During my 2010  travels as a U.S. State Department delegate for the Women's Arts Exchange with Tanzania(led by Martin Nagy, Director of the Great Lakes Arts Council in Toledo), I had the experience of my life when taken to to meet "some of the best potters in Tanzania." My time with the Ihumwa village potters outside of Dodoma, Tanzania turned out to be my National Geographic moment! I remember sitting on a small stool outside of a traditional mud home with all the women's incredible pottery laid out before us. Two cows were tied up in a pen directly behind me, all the children stood encircling us and through our translator the following incredible story began to unfold.
What an awesome welcome by the women

With my first look at the fruit of these incredible potters I was immediately struck by the perfect symmetry. Initially, our delegation leader thought that a potters wheel must have been used. But after a barrage of questions one of the women indicated that she would demonstrate their pot making process for us. To my amazement in less than fifteen minutes a perfect pot had been formed before our very eyes... what an incredible sight this was!
The demonstration begins
Adding water to dried clay
Tools...corn cob, paper and stone
Building wall of pot
Using corn cob tool
Almost complete...
One of the things I learned was that each woman walks eight miles in order to collect the clay from a nearby riverbed. Then each woman would wrap about fifty pounds of clay in their khanga cloth(a popular textile worn by many women in Tanzania as skirts, head wraps and even to carry their babies in) which was then wrapped around their necks so that the weight was evenly distributed across their shoulders. Next the clay would be left to dry completely, sifted of rocks and other impurities and eventually reconstituted with water for pottery building. The pots are fired on top of the ground which accounts for the beautifully blackened patches that dot the surfaces. of the finished pieces.

Finishing the lid

Completed pottery of the village women

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Let Loose"

On this season's X Factor which debuts some of the best singing talent around, a young lady by the name of Melanie Amaro has been of great interest to me. It seems all the contestants have had a story to share of their lives...overcoming drug addiction, adoption, raised by single parent, separation from parents, etc.

Melanie Amaro seemed like another talented young woman trying to capture the 5 million dollar recording contract that's been dangled over the contestants heads like a laboratory enhanced carrot. However, a few weeks back something happened that changed Melanie's subsequent performances and made me reassess my approach to my own art. During the episode which escapes me in terms of the specific week, young Melanie was told to "Let loose and be yourself" by celebrity judge Paula Abdul(in terms of her performance). I listened intently as if Paula were speaking directly to me... "Let loose  Wendy and be yourself in relationship to your art." I reflected upon the words and what they meant to not only Melanie but myself and the importance of being transparent in one's art. After all isn't art a mere extension of oneself?

By the next episode it was very obvious that Melanie had mulled over the advice and taken it to heart.  So after another perfect performance and while awaiting the judges comments, Melanie asks to speak and reveals a heavy island accent. I could hear everyone's head whirling across America and wondering where the accent came from. You see, it turns out that Melanie had been raised by her grandparents in the Virgin Islands and had learned to hide her accent after coming to the states and being teased by classmates. Ever since Melanie revealed her true self she's never sang more beautifully!

As artists, don't we owe it to ourselves to follow similar advice and "Let loose and be yourself." Maybe you've been holding back on trying a new technique, paint color or subject matter in your work. Maybe you have no problem letting loose in your work and if that's the case I'm happy for you. But for me I look forward to hitting some high notes with my art!

X Factor's Melanie Amaro

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blick's Lesson Plans

Thanks to Blick art for the wonderful lesson plans provided in each of their annual catalogs. For years I didn't pay them much attention and therefore missed some wonderful opportunities to share pre-tested projects with my students. Now when it's time to toss them out each year I gently remove the lesson plan pages, insert them in acetate sleeves and store in my lesson plan binder which holds years of wonderful projects.

Proud artist
This year I began my after school program with "Architectural Letters" which originated from Blick's (by the way the same neat lesson plans are online if you don't receive the catalog). Week after week my budding artists devoted themselves to the construction of these letters. Hey, I love building things as much as my students but was glad when the project finally ended two months later.

No, it didn't take that long to complete but when you have only one hour a week, teacher professional days which means no programming for us and other various scheduling interruptions....simple projects can stretch out. The other reason for extended projects is that I always try to keep the environment very relaxed. As long as the students are happily creating and enjoying what they do...we're good..

Thanks again Blick's for helping me out when I need something new to create!

Not bad for fome-core, paper cups, glue, kraft tape and paint. Actually, the possibilities are endless with this process.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"I'm Thankful"

"Each day I rise and thank God for the opportunity to make more art!" is what I found myself writing on a painted picture frame I'd prepared before class recently. Since 2008 I've been blessed to teach youngsters in grades K-6 in an after school arts program called Art in the House (AIH).

Budding artists
I'm thankful for the students I've been able to share my passion of teaching and creating art with all these years. I'm thankful for one of the best groups of kids I've ever worked with in my years of teaching, who have taught me so much and keep me working hard to deliver my "A game" each week. I'm thankful for the students who attend our weekly classes expecting that I'll be there to guide them on another creative one hour journey. I'm thankful to be able to witness the individual growth of my students, the awesome work and ideas they continue to generate each week. I'm thankful for my personal growth as a teaching artist as witnessed by the fact  I now enjoy working with teens just as much as younger children. Can't begin to explain my initial reluctance to work with teens....and my thoughts that they'd "eat me alive." Now I wonder what I was so afraid of...their great to work with! I'm thankful for the recent hiring of a former (AIH) student as my apprentice artist. I'm thankful for the supportive staff of St. Stephen's Community House (my host site) and the warm greetings received each day that I enter the building....they give me a sense of belonging that's more valuable than gold. I'm thankful for the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC), all funders and especially Tim, Jim and Oulanje who continue to believe in me as a teaching artist and make it possible to share my passion each week. I'm thankful for the support of my family and their willingness to join in my tendency to "save everything" because I can use it with my kids in (AIH). I'm thankful for the extra hours of studio time available since our children are now grown and the house is empty for the first time in my married life.
Yes, "Each day I rise and thank God for the opportunity to make more art!"

Something for everyone to enjoy!

Recycled leather bracelet

Painting picture frames