Thursday, February 9, 2017

Haunting Driftwood

Driftwood sculpture by Nagato Iwasaki.

Incredible use of found things, paired with an amazing eye for form and anatomy.

Find more here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017, I'm Not Ready.

This extremely unflattering
picture shows I would like
to have humor about my
imperfections. And maybe
punch someone.
I'm just not. 

I'm turning older in March. Not ready for that, though I'm not freaking out about it.

I haven't done what I wanted to do with my life, quite yet. (I'm still deciding what that is by the way, so please, don't judge me!) 

I still say the wrong things and get in trouble because of my mouth. (Still. Damn it!) I mean well, I really do, but there are still those horrifying moments where I just try to see what my mouth is saying at the same time it's saying what it's saying and thinking, "No! Don't! You can't---! Oh, shit. You did. You really did." *face palm*

And man, there are so many things I want to do, I'm dizzy with it! But this is the time I need to settle myself and breathe, and focus on what is really important to me.

Don't get me wrong. 2016 was a really rough year, personally, but it wasn't all bad.

I had the great opportunity to go to the Stanley Hotel, which was a major bucket list item!

I also got to go to Cancun and Kauai, which was a blast. I got to see old friends in Portland, Oregon. I had the opportunity to go to a great ceramic art show and speak with some very talented artists. I got to see family and friends. I had a whole doggone year without a surgery! YES!!!

And I did make some personal strides forward, but -- and many of you will recognize this about yourselves -- somehow I feel like I fell short of my expectations of myself.

I'm pretty sure everyone feels this way from time to time, especially this time of year. Maybe you (like me) didn't lose the weight you wanted to, or you didn't commit to your plan for world domination, or something like that. I keep telling myself that it's o.k. I'm not dead, yet (escaping the 2016 Death Race was an accomplishment all on its own, so I count it as a win!), so I can keep on working on myself and my other goals. It's not too late.

 A friend mentioned to write down my goals and then figure out where they stand on my priority list. I'm still working on it, and I feel cautiously positive about it. The cautious part of me is the part who's afraid of failure. I'm reminding myself that I overthink things, and to just keep going. To have some courage, because really, I'm not going to be executed for not achieving my goals or desires. (Why are we always so damn dramatic about this?)
And I'm reminding myself that in spite of all of my failures -- real and imagined -- I'm still falling forwards more than backwards. Inch by inch, things improve. I am on an adventure, and it is, overall, pretty amazing.

Yes, I really do have to remember when to just shut my mouth, but sometimes, what comes out is kind and helpful. I know that will get better with practice.

One of the things I noticed I could improve was my charitable giving. I noticed that I was, quite frankly, stingy with giving money to causes I supported. And I decided to change that, right away.

I believe in them, sure. I sign petitions which don't seem like they're just a crazy waste of time. But giving? Not as good as I wanted. Because I don't make loads of take-home cash after I donate to my retirement, it was easy to excuse not giving to what mattered to me.

So I went back to my last post and chose three separate charities I wanted to give to, and for two of them, I set up a monthly schedule of support. It's not loads of cash, but I know that every little bit helps, and that they need it, regardless of how large or small the donation is. And really, it's not going to break me. Will I need more time to save for things I want for myself? Sure. But, honestly, aside from improving my studio, I really don't need a whole bunch more "stuff." I can live without a wind spinner or another wind chime, honestly.

I'll continue to make changes, as incremental as they may be. The New Year gives us all an excuse to stop and take inventory, so we can see what changes are important to us.

Happy New Year, Gang! Here's to some positive change!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Last-Minute Tax Deductions

So in yesterday's post, I had actually meant to list some organizations you might think about donating to before the end of the year. But then I got sad all over again about David Bowie and Alan Rickman, so I didn't.

My personal goal for the next four years is to pay as little tax as I legally can. Part of that goal is to choose organizations which are important to me and to Mr. ShellHawk, and to help them survive what is going to be a rougher time than they do, already. We're not part of the 1%, or even the 20%, but we've been fortunate in many ways, and helping out worthy causes is important to us. So I started getting a list together of organizations both in the United States and abroad. There are many more worthy charities than I can list

I want to make it clear that I haven't vetted all of these to see how much goes to admin costs vs. getting to where they need to go, so if one of them takes your fancy, look into it very carefully to see if it's where you can make your donation do the most good. Also verify if you will get a tax deduction here in the U.S., if that's a huge drive for you.
A Kenyan Wildlife Ranger, fighting against the illegal ivory trade.
I was reading this article by The Guardian about the lives of wildlife rangers in Africa and around the world. These are guys who are doing everything they can to prevent poachers from exterminating entire species for ivory and other "prizes" sought by morally bankrupt people with more money than conscience. It's an extremely dangerous job. So dangerous, that over the last ten years, 1000 have been killed by poachers. These rangers get very little recognition or compensation for risking life and limb, yet they keep on going. To support them and their families, head over to The Thin Green Line and make a donation.

If you love elephants and are concerned about their dwindling numbers, take a look at this list of charities promoting conservation of elephants and discouraging the ivory trade. Personally, I like the idea of getting in there and kicking some serious poacher ass in order to save these majestic creatures.

If the oceans are your thing, my personal favorite protectors are the dedicated people at Sea Shepherd. These people put themselves between the wildlife they're protecting and those who use it for financial gain. I like them because they're out there, doing, instead of talking about it.

Closer to home, if you're into space exploration and want to support the science behind it, you might want to donate to The Planetary Society, whose CEO is none other than Bill Nye, the science guy! Since it seems we're in a society which actively discourages the sciences, I like the thought of nurturing new science and technology.

Along those lines, you can also donate to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who promote renewable energy, sustainably grown food sources, study climate change and other things.

Other organizations:

I believe with all my heart that all of us have something to give, even if it's only $5. And I believe that spreading kindness is what we need now, more than ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Longest Night

The longest night and shortest day. The Earth's axis tilts the furthest away from the sun, shortening the light to less than twelve hours.

The Winter Solstice.

It's one of those reflective times for me, and I think it's a reflective time for a large chunk of the world's population.

This is going to get a little random, but please, humor me as I work this out.

2016, many will agree, was a giant ball of suck, on many levels. 
Death and Binky have been quite busy this year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Nancy Reagan, Abe Vigoda, Glenn Frey, Dan Haggerty, Alan Thicke, Muhammad Ali and quite literally, many, many more, have left us this year.

I don't usually get into politics on this blog, because I don't want to offend my readers, but since I'm mentioning deaths, I feel that it's not too big of a stretch to say that Democracy is comatose and definitely on life support. The plug will, I fear, be pulled in January.

It's been a crushingly disappointing year on so many levels.

But getting back to the Winter Solstice...

Back in the old days, it was the night bonfires were lit to invite the sun back. Sacrifices were made, feasting and revelry marked the night. Holly, believed to have magical powers because of its ability to survive the winter, was made into wreaths and brought into the house as a symbol of rebirth.

I've been depressed about this year. On a personal level, there have been some serious challenges which have taken their toll on me. I'm sure you, gentle reader, have had a thing or two happen to you, as well. On a universal level, it's been really tough, too. I feel like the world has gone batshit crazy. 

But as I write this, the first fingers of dawn begin to stretch across the sky, and I realize that cycles like this come, and more importantly, they go. The light returns, and while it never returns as quickly as we may like, it still returns. And in times like these, I think it's important to remember that we can make a choice to bring back the light by lighting those candles, that bonfire, and by turning on that light switch.

Pema Chodron once said that peace is as infectious as aggression, and though I struggle every day with my own aggression (like many artists, I tend to be intense about everything), I try to keep this thought in mind.

Happy Winter Solstice, gang. Let's welcome back the light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Planted That Garden!

About a month ago, I planted a cool weather garden, hoping to get some results before the nights started to get too cold. I tore out the dying tomato plants, the dead lemon cucumbers, the eggplants which wouldn't be able to ripen any more than they had, and I bought a bunch of organic soil amendment to add to the dwindling supply of compost from my compost bin. I also threw in a bunch of chicken manure and bat guano and turned everything in with my turning fork really well before I started planting.

I spent a couple of hours wandering our nursery, sort of basking in the potential. It's this thing I have with nurseries and art supply stores. All the potential! I'm greedy for it, truth be told. And I sort of was on a planting tear (having bought a bunch of plants and pots for the inside of the house, already, focusing on my new Hoya obsession), so I had to reign myself in and remind myself how much space I had to work with for the time being.
So here's the list: several different kinds of lettuce, celery (we make lots of soup), kale, sugar snap peas, cauliflower and broccoli, golden beets, sweet onions, globe artichoke and leeks. We had some marigolds left, and since they attract beneficial nematodes, I decided to leave them in the beds for a bit longer. If they go to seed, I'll have some for next year!
 I also renewed our fresh herbs. Oregano, Italian parsley, chives, tarragon, sage. I added a yarrow plant for the hummingbirds and the bees.
So here we are, a month later, and things have been growing pretty well. I don't think I'll get great results from the peas, though they may surprise me... 
 The lettuce, on the other hand seems quite happy!
Since it got down to freezing this past weekend, I bought some row covers to put over everything at night so I didn't lose my hard work. I picked up some pet-friendly slug and snail killer, too, since we've had some rain and they can decimate a vegetable garden overnight. The row covers are the fabric-looking stuff in front of the beds.
I'm thinking of trying my hand at espalier this spring, and adding a few more boxes to my garden beds. It'll certainly pretty up my fence!

In case you missed it, here's my kitchen garden Pinterest board! Lots of fun ideas for gardening.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Kitchen Garden

Find this pic here.
One of the other goals I have for the upcoming year is to  get back to gardening more. Honestly, part of me has made this decision because I really don't want to contribute to the upcoming economy more than I absolutely have to. (Don't go there.) 

I've also missed gardening. I haven't grown pumpkins in a few years, and Mr. ShellHawk has taken over growing the tomatoes and other summer veggies. 

This autumn, I cleaned out our raised beds and planted them with cool weather crops. We have several kinds of lettuce, kale, broccoli, leeks, sweet onions, snap peas, beets and cauliflower. The lettuce is almost ready to eat! Yay!

In typical fashion, I dove down the rabbit hole of research for expanding our garden for the spring and summer, and created The Kitchen Garden Pinterest board. If you're interested in gardening next season, it's got bunches of cool books on growing in small spaces, seed collection and storage and food preservation, tools, design ideas, etc. for your perusal. If you click on the books and the tools, it's going to take you to where you can purchase them if you wish to.

My brain has been working overtime on ideas for the garden, I have to say! I do wish I could raise some bees, too, but I know my dogs, and man, is that asking for trouble! I might just grab a bee house, though... And a bat house... And...

Friday, December 9, 2016

2017 is Coming!

And with it an expansion of my artistic vision, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. I've been setting goals for the upcoming year, and barring a repeat of 2016's year of challenge after challenge, I can do it! 
 I've outgrown my space, you see. To alleviate that issue, I've been purging things inside the house and am moving on to doing the same in the studio in the coming weeks.

One of my goals is to purchase some good-quality, sturdy cabinets for storage for both the garage and the studio. They're not cheap, but the will last nearly forever! And that will tidy up the studio quite a bit, free up some space and organize things more efficiently.

I plan to sell my smaller kiln for a second, larger electric kiln, which will require another visit from my favorite electrician, Kevin. 

Sometime in the future, ideally within the next couple of years, I plan to purchase a gas kiln. Of course, I need to check with the city first, and see what the building codes are going to be, and see if I can even have one here at home.

And I would dearly love to build a permanent Raku kiln, although having something built permanently in the back yard may be an understandable aesthetic issue for Mr. ShellHawk. Staring at a bunch of fire bricks covered with a tarp all year may not be what he (or I) consider to be the vision of a tidy and relaxing back yard!

Ultimately, my true vision is to make the everyday things we use -- cups, teapots, bowls, etc. -- things of beauty. Things which people look forward to using and show proudly to their friends and family. I plan to create sculpture which people will love to see in their homes every day.

I've mentioned before about my Patreon site, which is essentially a twist on the usual crowd-funding sites and is built specifically to support artists through ongoing patronage by their fans. I launched it a while back, but then life attacked me and I was unable to keep it up. 

Well, I've re-launched, and I would love it if you, my readers and fans would head over there and look over how to become a Patron of my art. I've even included a permanent link in my upper right side bar.

I've got it set up so that nearly each level of monthly Patronage receives special benefits from me! Even $1 a month will help, and you can cancel your patronage at any time. 

Whatever you decide you can do, know that it will contribute to my goals and visions of being able to continue to create great art every year, and beat back the boring, uninspired things we use every day. 

Each day should be filled with beauty, don't you think?

ShellHawk's Creations Patreon site is here.
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