transcending the dreaded artist statement

birdframeIf making art isn’t hard enough, writing about it is even more difficult. I find the artist statement elusive and intimidating as I struggle to put into words the multitude of messages that can be read in layers of imagery.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, as I was writing my artist statement for the upcoming “Plumage” show, it launched my work in a new direction.  Usually it’s been the opposite for me.  I make the work, and then struggle to find words to describe it.  This time, I wrote first and created second.

At first, I was writing about some older pieces that I was thinking of showing, but then when the artist statement was complete, in addition to describing the earlier “blue” series, it was also describing some works that did not exist yet.  I’ve been in the studio every minute I can, ever since, trying to create what I can see in my imagination, what I feel in my heart.  The work is not there yet, but I am standing on the precipice of a new doorway, filled with light, exploring new themes such as landscape and surrealism, with all its’ inherent symbolism and layers of meaning.

Below is an exerpt from the statement that launched this new series.  The wonder of art is that it can have different meanings for different people.  I’m not including the artist statement in it’s entirety because I want you to find your own meaning in the work.  You can read my statement at the opening for the Plumage show April 19 at Gallery 4500.

thebestschoolsPlumage Show Artist Statement, Spring 2013

Birds represent passages to me.  Flight reminds us of transitions, a change of seasons, a turning of time….


Glazing Tiles at Cougar Ridge

glazingtilesIt’s magical to see your ceramic piece come back from the kiln.  The color has changed from gray to white, and the clay has transformed from wet mud to a hard-as-a-rock, but don’t-drop-it-because-it’s-fragile, ceramic pottery piece.

glazingtiles2The students are excited to see their bisque-fired tiles and to add color.

In the glazing sessions, we presented some color theory for students in making their color choices, and demonstrated a few brush stroke techniques specific to glazing pottery.

glazingtiles1The tiles will be fired a second time, and finally will be ready to layout for installation.

Thank you to Cyndi Moring and the countless volunteers who are efficiently running all these tiles (and a bunch of other clay-work Cyndi did with her students before we came!) through the kiln.

To see how we made the tiles and learn more about this program, click here.



To learn more about bringing an Artist-in-Residence program to your child’s school in the greater Seattle area, please visit

Is it Lakeridge Elementary or Lakeridge Elementary?

warm&coolpaintingsTwo of the schools in my weekly rotation of classes are called Lakeridge Elementary. I’ve been checking and double-checking my schedule, (which Lakeridge is it again?!), glued to my GPS, cursing suburban traffic as I try to get around my ever-expanding territory. Both schools are on Lake Washington, but one is in the Mercer Island School District, and the other is in the Renton Schools.

birdontexturedbackgroundAlthough they are separated by only a few miles of water, the two schools with the same name are a world apart.

The program in Renton is funded by a grant for schools in need.  A diverse group at Lakeridge, these kids were hand-picked as students who would benefit from an after school art program.  Most of these children have never had an art class before.  They are eager, fascinated by the materials, enchanted by the colors and the possibilities they bring.  With this group, every moment is filled with discovery and wonder.

birdshapesThis Artist-in-Residence program is a collaboration with my longtime cohort, Nadine Smith.  Through a 13-week series, Nadine and I will be creating TWO permanent art pieces at the school, featuring the students work.  One will be a mosaic column at the front entrance to the school, and the other, a collage mural, installed inside the school.

We started the series with warm and cool paintings, and let the students discover the magic of wax resist.  In the second class, we introduced the concept of drawing using shapes, and we cut up some of their paintings to make collages.  Over the next several weeks, we will continue to explore combining shapes as we learn to draw flowers and plants, architecture, etc.

The students will apply their understanding of shapes when we begin the mosaic portion of the series, scheduled for May and June.

ericcarleThe other Lakeridge

Mercer Island is an affluent Seattle suburb, set in the middle of Lake Washington. I’m teaching an after school book arts series at Lakeridge and Island Park Elementary Schools. Both series are offered through the Kids Co. after school program, and are funded by parents.  These kids have all had art instruction before and are comfortable working with art tools and materials in a creative process.  In this series, we are making paper maché pop up books, fiber arts books, and 3-d shadow box books.

Now which Lakeridge is it again?


duct tape suitcases


Duct tape luggage, as part of our Winter Travel ART series with Nadine Smith and KidsCreate.  Students in our after school programs are creating travel journals, luggage, time travel passports, 3-d maps, and more.

luggagetagMixed media opens up a WORLD of posssibilities!

Photo credit: Amrita Huja


For more information, please visit

Cougar Ridge Elementary

WP_002073While I enjoy working in my studio, it is the collaborations with other artists that energize and inspire me the most.

I’m currently collaborating with my friend and colleague, Shari Kaufman, as Artists-in-Residence at Cougar Ridge Elementary.

We are leading an all-school ceramic series, making clay tiles with over 600 students.  In March, we will create a mosaic installation at the school, featuring the children’s tiles.

WP_002060I am learning so much from Shari about working with clay.  She specializes in creating ceramic wall hanging pieces and jewelery, which she regularly exhibits and sells at the Columbia City Gallery, as well as several other Puget Sound area galleries, and teaches at the Seward Park Clay Studio.  Shari and I have taught together before and we each bring unique skills and perspective to the project.

We are enjoying working with Cyndi Moring, the art teacher at Cougar Ridge.  I first met Cyndi many years ago when she hosted workshops for artist educators.  These workshops gave me the foundation for writing curricula touching on the Washington State EALR’s, and in linking in science, math, social studies, etc.


Cyndi is the only elementary art teacher in the Issaquah School District.  Every year her school hosts a PTA-sponsored Artist-in-Residence.  Some years it is music, some years it is dance, or theater …  this year it is visual art.  For years, Cyndi had envisioned creating an all-school tile mural, so last year, with visual arts coming up for this year’s AIR program, she put out a call to artists specializing in ceramic tile installations in schools.  Shari and I put forward a proposal, and now here we are, creating clay tiles with the kids at Cougar Ridge.


Our theme is “Patterns in Nature.”  I’ve used this theme before and I will use it again!  As an environmentalist, an outdoor enthusiast, and an artist who takes my inspiration mostly from nature, I’m enjoying talking to the children about the swirl pattern of a seashell, ripples in water, veins on a leaf.  These children live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, surrounded by hiking trails.  I am pleasantly surprised by how many have said they hike with their families.  I hope to inspire curiosity and an appreciation of beauty in the natural world through art.

WP_002080* * *

A VERY full kiln!  This kiln has a couple hundred bisque-fired tiles packed in there.

Next week we start glazing the tiles, and they will be fired a second time.

Finally, after all 600+ tiles have been through the kiln twice, we will be ready to assemble the mosaic installation.  Stay tuned!


the varnishing problem

I love to finish a project, to cross something completely off my list.  Unfortunately, for some reason, I make this very difficult for myself.  Every time I go to varnish an artwork, (the final, protective clear coat) I do about a million little miniscule touch-ups, which must then dry, and so the varnishing must once again, be postponed.  Hhhmmm.  Perfectionism?  Perhaps.  Fear of letting it out into the world?  Perhaps.  Perhaps I want to spend as long as possible with the artwork before letting it go.

I’m even telling myself, “Don’t do it!  No one will notice that!  Don’t do it, don’t …  aaaah, I’m doing it.  Why am I doing it?  I can’t stop myself.  I’m getting out the paint again.  I’m not satisfied yet.”

The only solution is a deadline, and even so, with today as the deadline, last night I worked late into the night, tired after a long week of teaching.  I even had the hair dryer out, just like in art school.

Of course this morning I forgot to allow time to take pictures in the daylight before delivering it to the client, but here it was last night, set against the backdrop of city lights, as I practiced letting go.


For more about the AIR (Artist-in-Residence) program at Alki Elementary, see here.