Thursday, May 28, 2020

Writing Through the Pain

Pic via The List Love
Horror fans will remember when we almost lost one of our icons, Stephen King.

It was June of 1999, and as King was taking a late-afternoon walk, he was hit by a Dodge van and very narrowly escaped being killed instantly. It was one of those, "Yeah, what happened was horrible, but you could have been killed instantly if not just one, but several things had happened just a hair differently!"

I'm writing about this now, because I get notifications from The New Yorker sent to my email. From time to time, they send out links to older writings, like the article King wrote, On Impact

He wrote about his experience of the accident and the grueling and soul-shaking work of learning not only to walk again, but learning to write again. Typical of his writing style, it's equal parts real-life horror and humor. I think one of the funnier observations he made was that, after Bryan Smith, the man who hit him, tells the cops that he and his dog were driving to the store for "Marzes bars." 

King says, "When I hear this detail some weeks later, it occurs to me that I have nearly been killed by a character out of one of my own novels. It’s almost funny."

You can read the article for all of the details, but what really struck me was the last paragraph, specifically, the last sentence: 
"Writing did not save my life, but it is doing what it has always done: it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place."
I've been thinking about this for the last few days. 

In the earlier days of this blog, I wrote daily, almost. It was never the most spectacular example of prose, ever, but I enjoyed it quite a lot. It gave me a place to share cool Halloween stuff and connect with a bunch of you Halloween people (many of whom are actual, real-life friends, now). I had just moved into a new town, and I hadn't made a lot of friends, yet, so it gave me another avenue to connect. It also gave me a chance to work out my thoughts and to get some insights from those of you who wanted to chime in. 

John Wolfe (may he rest in peace), of the now-defunct Season of Shadows blog, said my posts had the feeling of catharsis. He was right. This blog is my catharsis, even though life has gotten too busy to write on it daily.

But telling your truth - telling the truth - seems to be a bit of a challenge in these ever-changing times.

Case in point: The Donald. Twitter has at last started placing fact-checks beside his tweets. And the tiny-handed man-baby is, predictably, shitting his diaper and threatening to sign Executive Orders so he can continue to lie. While this would be funny if it were a sit-com, it's frightening to see the behavior of a malignant narcissist in the person of a man who has the nuclear codes.

What does that have to do with writing? With this blog?

Well, I guess for me, it brings home the importance of telling the truth and accepting responsibility for my actions, good or bad. I'm far from perfect, and I'm not always right, but I will always tell the truth on these pages. It's so much easier than the panic of having to keep track of all the lies you've told.

Those of you who have followed me for a few years, or maybe even since my first post in 2008 will have seen a lot of life happen to me. Some good things, some great things, and some incredibly painful things. I won't say "bad" because all the things which have happened to me have made me grow. They've made me more introspective and more determined, sometimes softer and more compassionate. All of it has changed me. All of it has shown me where I need to grow - good lord has it shown me where I must grow! - even if I'm kicking, crying, and screaming as it happens. Such is life. 

Writing it out has been instrumental in my healing. In my living. In watching the old parts of me die. In the contemplation of the unknowable future. In the process of rebirth.

I'll continue to write it out. 

As with Mr. King, it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

WIP

In between studying new programs to advance into the VFX field, being absolutely stunned at my luck in being a part of a top-notch team of folks working on new technology (and knowing I will not ever be the smartest person in the room when working with them, which is humbling, but in a good way), I'm still able to take time to do what I love: make Halloween.
I haven't made little pumpkin guys for years, so after a couple of false starts, I managed to remember the technique necessary to put a few together.
The studio where I will be doing the firing is still closed, unfortunately. I mean, I get it, right? But I'm just impatient to get these guys fired so I can glaze them. I have to make enough to be able to rent the kiln from them, too, as they're a high-fire studio and these guys are all low-fire clay. 

I use earthenware for these mostly out of habit, honestly. When I had my studio and my kiln, firing at lower temperatures is easier on your kiln elements as well as your electrical bill. I also like low-fire because the colors you can use are so much brighter than you can use at a higher temperature range. Many of the minerals used to create color burn out in higher temperatures, so low-fire is a good choice. 
I'm using underglazes for my pumpkin guys for the time being. They're formulated to stay put, rather than flow, so if you paint pictures or designs, they stay exactly where you put them. I may or may not go over them with a clear glaze. I'm not sure, yet. We'll see how they look when they come out of the first firing.

Whenever that is... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Planting the Garden - Better Late Than Never!

It's been a long time since I've done any gardening. It's one of the things I've missed most since I left Folsom. I've had so much stuff on my plate the last several years, I just didn't have the time to dedicate, let alone the head space.

Now, with Covid-19 potentially causing some of my and my dad's favorite veggies to be a little more scarce, I thought it might be a good time to get my hands in the dirt, again.
 
After consulting with dad about how he wanted it to look, I ordered a kit from Lowe's. It was incredibly easy to put together! The cedar boards just slid right into the pre-cut grooves in the corner pieces and all that was left to do was to fill it with dirt.

Which I ran out of. Dang it! 

I had to wait a few days until I had time to make another Lowe's run and grab a couple more bags of garden dirt. While I was there, I threw in a Sweet Pepper plant to encourage all the rest of the seeds to sprout. "See? Look at how pretty you can become! One day soon, you'll be this big!"

The next thing was to attempt to dog-proof the new planting. Anyone who's a dog owner knows just how wonderfully smelly fresh dirt and fertilizer is to a dog, almost as wonderful as rolling in a pile of stinky horse poop! Grace, my Hell Hound, is no different, and she seems to have the puppy's uncanny knack for getting into precisely the thing she absolutely, under no circumstances, should get into. This would be far too much temptation for her; a messy excavation project would be her first step!

This was a job for dad.
I have to say, my dad is pretty darn gracious about getting roped into my extra projects. It's a pleasant change to have someone who's enthusiastic about getting things done and enjoys the challenge of problem-solving!
He had some short poultry wire lying around, which we measured out and wrapped around some spare wooden posts he cut for the purpose. 
The end product wasn't too shabby!

Of course, Grace decided to just lean her head and neck on the wire to see what kind of dirt she could eat. (Insert eye-roll here.) But I think it will keep her from jumping in until the initial interesting smells die down. That usually only takes a couple of weeks. We're looking forward to all the nifty goodies we'll be getting out of our project, even when I'll have to re-plant some of them due to space!

Meanwhile, in another area of the yard are a few pots I planted with tomatoes, zucchini, and basil. 
I am really looking forward to fresh tomatoes! The store-bought ones are just never as tasty, and the flesh is just too mealy, for lack of a better word.

It occurred to me how lucky I am to still have my dad to enjoy these little afternoon projects with. I get my dry sense of humor from him, and the ability to banter back and forth with him while we were getting this done made the work go easily and with laughter. I really treasure this time with him!

So, what kind of things have you planted?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Progress!

Been keeping busy, throwing a new pumpkin army. Eventually, I'll get to the other, new ideas I've got bubbling, but for now, I'm feeling comforted by the repetition of throwing familiar forms. It's helping me to get back into the rhythm of making.
I showed my dad, who really hasn't seen me in a making cycle, and he made all the appropriately impressed dad noises. (Can I just mention how lucky I am to be spending this time with my dad?) I had to laugh when I looked at the jacks piling up, since I can't fire them until the studio I go to re-opens. Maybe I'll have enough to rent the whole kiln by that time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Rebirth

On June 3rd, it will be three years since I had to leave my home, my studio, friends, everything I had worked hard to build. I even had to leave behind one of my dogs. It was indescribably painful. 

But time marches on. Things change. I've managed to adapt, albeit clumsily and without much grace. It was hard to fathom all the ugly, ugly things which came to light in the last three years, but somehow, I've managed to hang on and to continue the process of growth and healing. I've been so lucky to have a core group of friends to hold my hand and listen to my travails!

Now, things are truly moving forward. I've recently completed my very first stint as a producer for a proof of concept short film. And I lived through it! And the director and all the crew had a great time and were very complimentary! I never imagined myself here, in this place.

And I finally had a conversation with my dad about getting the electrical at the house upgraded to allow for a kiln. Since the house was built in 1941 and it's still all the original electrical, it's simply too outdated to accommodate a new 220 circuit safely.

Dad said that it's OK! Hooray! So now I get to start saving for a new electrical panel and a new kiln! It's going to take me a while, and it may not actually happen until next year, but at least now, I have a way to reclaim my artistic talents and skills!

It was really hard to be told that my ceramics business was one of the reasons my ex decided to disappear, particularly since he was the one who demanded I make it a business. (Ah, the moving goal posts! Gotta love being set up to fail!) It was like a kick to the gut, and the lingering after effects sucked the joy out of life for a long time.
My favorite clay, in action (the three on the right).
But now, not only do I have this very attainable goal, my very favorite clay manufacturer brought down their prices for shipping clay! Yes, it's still more than it would be if I still lived in the Sacramento area and could pick it up, myself, but I'm still super-happy about it! That clay is really plastic and forgiving, and is perfect for making stoneware and also for Raku firing. It's very versatile, and man, it's just the best thing since sliced bread!

In this crazy time of isolation and sadness, it's been a relief to have something positive to work towards!

I determined that this time, in setting up my ceramics, I would take my time and not be pressured to immediately make a profit, so when my dad pointed out that I needed to consider whether I was going to actually make it pay to have a kiln, etc., (he was being nice about it, just spitballing, as it were) I started to recognize a trigger being activated.

So we had an honest chat about it. I told him that, in all honesty, I wasn't buying a kiln so I could be profitable. I was buying it so that I could enjoy my skill as a potter and a sculptor. I think my exact words were, "Do I have to make a profit in order to justify doing what I do best?" And I told him that what I wanted to do is to expand my skills, to study ceramics and apply my knowledge to making my pieces better and more interesting. To give myself the opportunity to just explore, rather than have to immediately be commercially appealing. (You never know for sure that anything you make will be commercially appealing, anyway!)

I also mentioned something another friend of mine, who is not American or Anglo, said:

"That's you Crazy White People, taking the happiness out of life with always having to have more, make more money! Why do you guys always have to ruin it for yourselves? Just have fun!"

So while yes, I do want to continue to sell my pieces (you can buy them here) so that I can offset my costs, I don't really want that to be my driving force. I want to have fun with it again. I want to feel the sheer joy of creating!

And boy, oh, boy! Do I have some fun new ideas!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mask Donations


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Plan for the Fall!

This post contains links to Amazon products and I may
get a commission should you click on the link.
Although the chances are better that I'll get struck by lightning.
As long as we're all on lockdown, I figured it would be a good time for me to remind you to plan your garden for fall pumpkins! 

A quick search will reveal a number of seed companies, and I'm sure if you do a little research, you'll find some with good customer reviews. You can click here and here for full instructions about how to grow pumpkins.

I prefer the classic Howden pumpkin, myself. They're wonderful for carving! But if you're really ambitious and have a lot of space to play with, you might try these Big Max seeds. They can get upwards of 100 pounds!

In any case, it's a good time to consider growing your own pumpkins or other goodies for canning or preserving this coming harvest season!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Social Distancing? I Was MADE for This!

From the opening sequences of Creepshow
I'm very lucky in that my office is small and I can work at least part of the time from home! So while I work, I've plugged in a couple of my old favorites. They're movies I can half-watch while plugging in numbers to a spreadsheet because I've seen them a multitude of times.

Like Creepshow! Hooray!

Life has been busy, aside from the plague. My boss enlisted me to produce a small, proof-of-concept film which was shot this past Sunday. It was pretty crazy. He told me when I got back from vacation in Maui that we were shooting in two weeks and we had no crew or equipment as of that moment. I did get some input from the director and the compositor, both of whom I've known for a little over a year.

It was stressful, but it was so much fun! Even though we had a couple of crew members to replace at the last moment, it all worked out very well, and everyone got along beautifully! I wish I could share more, but, well. Those pesky NDAs, you know? 

I've wanted to start expanding my knowledge so that I can move out of being an executive assistant and into post-production. Production would be good, but it seems a little intense for me at this point in my life. I'm excited that I have my first Producer credit under my belt, regardless!

In any case, I hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy, and that you're taking your work from home time and making the best Halloween props you can imagine, or at least organizing your work space so that you're ready to go when the weather turns good!