Thursday, December 19, 2013

Letter from the President

The New Year is just a few days away, which means good-bye to 2013 and also, good-bye to my position as President of the ACGA. It's been four years, and it's time to hand off the reins to the capable hands of Forrest Lesch-Middleton. I have enjoyed being President. I like talking to you all every month through this letter, and hearing your feedback. Now, I am going to dedicate my volunteer time toward the things I feel most passionate about for the ACGA: member participation, social media and marketing, and mentoring. I put member participation at the top of the list. The ACGA is basically run by 3 or 4 dynamic people, and not only do they need more help, we just need more ideas from members on how to leverage our wide network of artists and make it a better resource for you. Actually, we need more than ideas, ideas are everywhere. We need people who like to make things happen!

A good place to start will be at our annual retreat, which we are calling our "ACGA Getaway" this year. It will be on Saturday, Jan 11, at Pedro Point Firehouse in Pacifica. If you have not already received your emailed invitation, please be sure to check the ACGA Facebook page under "events". We have an exciting agenda planned, and an after-party at ACGA member Linda Fahey's new shop, Yonder. You can RSVP by emailing me or responding to the invitation.

I hope everyone has a happy new year.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

letter from the President

I don't feel very original when I say I can't believe it's the end of the year. The holiday rush is on, in case you've been missing the signs since mid-October. I've been occupied with planning the ACGA retreat, which is happening on Saturday, January 11, 2014. Planning is required because the retreat is being tweaked a bit this year. We will still be taking care of business the way we do, but we will be leaving a lot more time for socializing, and we have a few unexpected things in store that I hope will inspire you for the coming year and get you excited to be a part of the ACGA. In honor of the changes, the retreat will be called the "The ACGA Getaway" and it will be held in the historic Pedro Point Firehouse in Pacifica, close to the beach. More details are in the newsletter, so mark you calendars and send me an RSVP that I will be seeing you there!

I wish everyone a lovely and sane holiday. Remember to breathe deeply and enjoy this exciting time of year.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Letter from the President

When a loved one dies, it starts the living on a journey of trying to understand the loss, and accepting it. At the end of August, I learned that an old friend of mine committed suicide the week before. Receiving this news was like having a psychic hole opened with a hard punch or kick, creating a sad and lonely vacuum that I imagine is akin to the feelings my friend had as she made the decision to end her life. While there are lots of messy, complicated ways to die that can make understanding and acceptance difficult, I've found this death by suicide is especially difficult to grapple with. It begs the question "why?" over and over again, and no matter how many answers one may glean, none will satisfy.

It's commonly believed that creative people suffer more from mental illness than anyone else, and while I'm not sure that is actually true, I do think our community is strongly impacted by depression and anxiety.  This can make navigating our chosen field especially difficult, as the creative life is usually one of inherent instability, with no guaranteed keys for success no matter how hard you work, no matter what your talent. My friend was a gifted singer and songwriter, and I think her difficulty in achieving a stable and rewarding career had much to do with her downward spiral.

I bring this up as a way to create a moment of awareness for anyone reading this.  We are all affected by mental illness in one way or another, and we live in a world where mental illness is often misunderstood and stigmatized.  Asking, giving, and receiving help is all any of us can do when faced with suffering. While this can be the most difficult thing in the world, it can also be the simplest, and bring us back to who we are, and why we are here. The advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness asks people to pledge to have a conversation about mental illness as a way to disrupt the silence. You can check out their page right here. Changing the world can be overwhelming, but it comes down to talking and listening. Pledge to do both today.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer is waning, and so are parts of my garden. Something is always growing, and something is always dying. It has had its moments of full glory:  sweet peas going off in all of their colors, the sunflowers still unmolested by squirrels, the sage blooming and bringing in the hummingbirds. I've mentioned before that I am relatively new to the whole gardening thing, and I am just now starting to recognize that in a garden, it's not really all about having this perfectly beautiful, perfectly growing space like you might see in a magazine. It's all about change. And death. And growth. All at the same time. When it all comes together and everything is thriving, it just doesn't last that long, and you have to enjoy it while it is there.  I'm not going to lie and day this has made me a better person who has learned how to enjoy being in the moment, because I'm still working on that. It has made me see that the garden is just another extension of life: always in flux, rarely perfect.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Letter from the President

The Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival is around the corner, the yearly premier event for the ACGA. This is when we have a chance to highlight the work of our artists, educate the public about clay and glass, interact with our customers and fans, and continue to fund all of our work through sales. If you have time to volunteer at the show, we love to have extra help from our ACGA community. Any contribution is welcome, even an hour to help booth sitting. Please contact our volunteer coordinator, Sheila Dubin at or call 408-395-5994.  If you are not showing your work at the Festival, I hope all of our members will try to make it to the show, and also take a moment to promote it through your social media outlets. It's a big push to make this show successful and profitable, and we need all hands on deck!

Retail shows can be a lot of fun, but they can also bring stress and anxiety. I've learned the best way to deal with this is preparation.  Make lists, pack ahead, stock up, whatever it takes. Maintaining a certain level of calm helps the transition from busy artist to salesperson, a role that many of us are not comfortable with.  There are professionals who can teach us how to be better at selling artwork, and over the years I've cherry-picked the things that work for me: greeting everyone who walks into my booth,  paying attention to customer body language, engaging with customers who are looking for a connection, keeping distractions like cell phones and visiting friends to a minimum, being helpful without being pushy. It's a lot to balance for someone who is used to spending all day alone in a studio. What about you? Do you have any killer sales tips to share with your colleagues? Post them on the blog!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Letter from the President

When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, we were amazed by the giant back yard the place came with. Yards like ours are rare in city apartment dwellings, because most landlords would simply use the land to build another house. The yard was covered in blackberry brambles, morning glory vines, bermuda grass, and mint that had gone completely rogue. It also had trees that were still producing persimmons, peaches, plums, jujubes, and apricots. We both immediately saw what the yard could be, and after several years of beating back the wild growing hordes, we've managed to create a garden retreat.

I killed many gardens before getting to the one I have now. I was really good at going to the garden center, dropping a bunch of money on plants, throwing them into the ground, and then completely forgetting that I planted some stuff until a month had passed. Over and over I did this, until I was pretty sure that I had no talent for gardening, and I would never be a gardener. But then I figured out the key: maintaining my attention on the garden, otherwise known as regular tending. With this simple activity, I have found that I can, in fact, grow things.

Making art is much the same way. Sometimes I can find myself giving up on ideas because they didn't immediately come out the way I wanted them to. I'm starting to see that this is the equivalent of throwing a plant into the ground, not watering it, then wondering why the plant is not growing. Maybe instead of assuming it was a bad idea, a regular and daily return to the process of working the idea out is the way to make it grow. What do you think?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Letter From the President

Life has a way of continually delivering doses of reality to you, until you stop resisting and accept what life is trying to tell you.  Accepting reality often means surrendering.  I've never liked the idea of surrender, or the act of surrendering, or even saying, "I surrender!" I'm in the arena, doing battle, and I will never give up. If I get sick, I keep going and pretend like I am not sick, so I can be sure to stay sick an extra two weeks. If I injure my shoulder from overuse, I keep throwing everyday for months, and then pay a physical therapist thousands of dollars to heal those muscles. If I am unhappy in the studio and not liking my work, I keep going in and putting my nose to the grindstone, because that's what I do. I work through it, I keep going, I never give up, and I NEVER SURRENDER!

I have re-examined my habit of refusing surrender.  Recently, I did something bad to my arm, and now I have tendonitis. I did not know I had tendonitis, all I knew is that my elbow hurt all the time. I ignored my elbow pain,  and I would wake up in morning with my whole arm throbbing. Finally, a doctor diagnosed tendonitis, and told me I would have to suspend my normal activities for 6 weeks. To me, this is a ridiculous prescription. I mean, who does that? Maybe if I were a idle rich person, or  a baby who had nothing to do all day, could I suspend normal activity for 6 weeks. I thought about it. I thought about living in pain for the foreseeable future, or doing major, long-term damage to my arm. I took a deep breath, bought a wrist brace, and I  suspended normal activity.

I have surrendered to the idea of rest, of giving my body a chance to heal, and of changing my concept of "surrender".  It does not mean that some other, unseen force has somehow won the game, and I have lost. Surrendering, I think, means acknowledging reality, and trying to align your actions within this new understanding of reality. I can't tell you how smart I feel having figured that out, at last. What about you? How do you feel about surrender, and when was the last time you tried it?