Friday, January 29, 2010

B-Dazle and the World of Woodloft




As I mentioned in the "One World One Heart" contest post (please scroll down to my January 25th post if you would like to enter the contest and haven't yet), my sparkly, moving sculpture of a car, B-dazle, has been my mechanical companion and workhorse for the past few years. B-dazle is a great icebreaker and has often been the subject of questions from my fellow citizens. Most want to know how long it took me to complete her and how many beads are attached. She has 23,000 beads, and bangles and took me 6 years to complete. Many also ask why I decided to create her. In part, B-dazle was an experiment I undertook to explore my interest in sculpture through a novel and unfamiliar medium. On a sadder note, however, her creation was also something I used to entertain my mother as she endured the relentless decline caused by Alzheimer’s Disease in her later years.

If you were here on a Saturday, you would likely find B-dazle and me on the local farmers’ market where I sell my sculpture and other artwork. (Everyone knows exactly where I am set up each week: all they have to do is find the most outrageous vehicle on the street, and there I am!)

Our little market is wonderful. We have an authentic European bread store, On the Rise, a chocolate shop to beat all, Chocolate Paper, and the new Taubman Museum of Art, a cultural edifice that has received national attention for its striking design.

And you’d love the flavorful, fresh produce our farmers bring to the market as well as the superb arts and crafts you’d find there. (If you are interested in reading more about the Roanoke farmers’ market, just click here.) After we finished touring the market, I’d invite you to climb into B-dazle and I’d whisk you off to visit my home, Woodloft, nestled in the woods of Virginia’s Roanoke Valley near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our first stop at Woodloft would be my studio. I have to warn you though, I am almost sure it is haunted. It must be, because every time I drop something on the floor, it disappears!

Once inside, you would see heads, arms, bodies and other body parts interspersed among the other detritus of my work.

You would see beads hanging absolutely everywhere.

And there are always sculptures in various stages of completion and stacks of just about everything imaginable.

I find a lot of my materials at our local flea market, Happy’s. When I see something I think I can use eventually, I buy it immediately and store it for future use. Unfortunately, that use sometimes does not make itself known for years, so I have to live with constant clutter. Funny that whenever I finally clean the studio, I can’t find anything for weeks afterward. It’s those ghosts, I tell you!

From the studio, I’d take you to my kitchen to begin showing you some of the finished artwork I’ve sprinkled throughout Woodloft. Here are my kitchen canisters for sugar, flour etc. Have you ever seen any like these before? I love to incorporate sculpture into the items I use in my everyday life. It seems to me that art, at its best, is an integral part of our lives.

While we are in the kitchen, I’d offer you a slice of the most decadent dessert you will ever taste. It is called Le Gateau Sans Rival, and was given to me by my mother-in-law. It is absolutely delicious. (If you would like the recipe, please click here.)

From the kitchen, we’d go to the main living area. There are mirrors everywhere at Woodloft.

And there are doors and windows that lead only to places in your imagination.

(If you would like to read more about what these mean to me, please click here or here.)

Mosaics abound here as well …

and there’s even a “fantasy art chair.” Sometimes I find friends sitting in it, and other times I find my dolls have claimed it for themselves.

One of the techniques I learned and came to love during a class in Italy was fresco. I used what I learned there to create the three angels, Strength, Wisdom and Love. They now occupy a wall at Woodloft.

They have other paintings and sculptures to keep them company. I like to think of Woodloft as part home and part private museum.

In my largest recent project, I’m remodeling a two-bedroom suite that is to become “The Tuscany Suite,” a nod to my love for Italy. It will house students for a class this summer. There is still a lot to do, but one of my sons-in-law, Lewis, a superb stonemason, has almost finished the arched doorways.

Just across the hall from The Tuscany Suite is my wine cellar. It was once just a closet under the stairs. I found an old iron gate and had it cut down and brazed to fit the doorway. Now if I could just keep the cellar filled with wine …

Finally, I would take you outside to show you the Woodloft gardens. There, mirrors reflect the water pond and the gong, ...

for meditation, there’s a 7-circuit labyrinth,...

and there are planters at nearly every turn.

When you tired of touring Woodloft, I’d invite you to come back soon. B-dazle would be waiting to start you on your way home. I’d say, “Ciao for now!” -- and in the meantime, come back to my blog anytime.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

One World, One Heart



When I heard about the “One World One Heart” event, I thought, “What a great idea!” It sounded like a wonderful way to meet other art bloggers and to build connections with people I might never meet otherwise. And I loved the “Magic Carpet” theme: certainly, my computer and blog have become a sort of magic carpet that has taken me in directions I couldn’t have imagined a dozen years ago.

I have some other magic and almost-but-not-quite-magic carpets in my life that also whisk me away to interesting places. One is my sparkly, mosaicked car, B-dazle, the mechanical companion and moving sculpture that has been my workhorse for the past few years. B-dazle is a great icebreaker and has been the subject of innumerable questions from my fellow citizens.

I have other magic carpets that take me to fascinating places that B-dazle can’t; and one of the best is the magic carpet called “books.” My favorite is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. His works included over 500 publications on topics ranging from life in middle America to life on other planets and in formats ranging from plays to poems to novels. He was a master of science fiction, and I found myself transported to another realm when I read classics of his like The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.

Books have often inspired subjects for my art, so it seems appropriate that I make sculpted bookmarks to assist others as they ride their own literary magic carpets. I call these “Sacred Word Keepers,” and each is unique. The one pictured here has a silver locket hanging from the top that opens so you can place a picture inside. And, like all of my Word Keepers, she has an original stoneware clay face.

To win her as part of the “One World One Heart” event, make a comment in the comment box below this post before noon Eastern Standard Time on February 15th. If you don’t mind, you may include an email address or blog address in your comment through which I can reach you to obtain mailing information if you’re the winner. If you don’t want to leave contact information with your comment, just watch my blog on the evening of February 15th. At that time, I’ll declare the winner. You can email your mailing information to me then if you won the Word Keeper.

Please come back for my next blog post when I will give you a tour of my home, Woodloft, and tell you about my other work.

(The 72 people who left comments before 8:15 PM EST on 1/26 will note that this post has been shortened substantially and re-posted to conform to the required content and length of OWOH posts. Please rest assured that I still have your comments on file and you will be entered in my drawing. If you wish to see copies of the first 72 comments, please click here.)

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Sunday, January 17, 2010




Tess, original mixed-media purse

I wonder what life was like during the 1920’s. Imagine being born at a time when women were not allowed to vote and the first World War was looming on the horizon.

Last April I posted a new series called “Sepias.” As strange as this may sound, I completely immerse myself into a sepia picture of a woman and come up with a story of what her life could possibly have been like.

I never know where or when a new idea for a series is going to hit.

Here is how the sepia series began.

An old box was among several items that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. When I opened the tattered, antique container, I found newspaper clippings, old letters, and keys – fragments of a family’s life. I learned a great deal about these people by the simple mementos someone had hidden away. More than just satisfying my idle curiosity about a family, this discovery inspired me to create a series of objets d’art named "Sepias"

Antique box with treasures

To create my Sepias, I started with an old photograph, preferably one of the sepia-tinted photographs so common in the 1800’s. Then, I made a pouch for the photo using an antique-looking fabric. Within each pouch I placed other items, often antiques themselves, depicting a life I imagined the woman in the photograph might have lived. The items acted as a catalyst to jolt my intuition into action. Then, I wrote a vignette from the woman’s life as I imagined it from my study of her photograph. This, too, was placed in the pouch.

Sepia photo of Tess

My friend, Karen, sent me a sepia photo that she found in an antique shop in Warren, Ohio. She loved the flirty, mysterious look on the woman’s face and thought I could use her in my new series. Since she appeared to be quite special, (notice she was smiling, which wasn't in vogue at the time) Karen instructed me to “write her well.”

I usually have to research the time frame of each one of the “Sepias,” and in the case of Tess, by the time I finished, I felt like I knew her.

I think she lives up to the name and photo. She turned out to be a very high-spirited kind of gal. I used authentic flappers beads for the fringe on the purse and other interesting items that seemed appropriate for the ‘Roaring Twenties.”

"Flapper" fringe

Scroll with Tess story and antique beads


January 1, 1917

Dear Diary,

It's 1917 and the world is changing faster every day. A while back, my friend Emily and I began a discussion about how we wanted to open a business together. We were thinking about a little clothing shop. We imagined ourselves selling all the popular styles like flapper dresses and cloche hats. We'd be the cat's meow! But then we began to wonder if this was a good idea. Here and in most of the country, women still can’t vote. The legislature will be making laws that could have a huge impact on our business, and we won’t have any say about them.

I wanted to talk to Daddy about this to see what he thinks, but I think he’s too preoccupied to be bothered. There’s more and more talk that the United States is going to get involved in that war in Europe. And Daddy always seems a little harder to talk to since Virginia approved statewide prohibition. I think he’s afraid that the whole country will be dry before long. Then it will be even harder to sneak a little drink now and again.

Well, Emily and I decided that if we’re going to be able to live our lives the way we want to, we need to be able to vote. So, we decided to join the National Women’s Party. Rumor has it that the suffragists in the NWP are going to hold protests in Washington starting this month. We want to help out.

January 10, 1917

Dear Diary,

We picketed the White House today. (I got all dressed up for the occasion, wearing my new long pearls and my Mary Janes). I was a little scared. It’s hard to believe a bunch of women can take on the whole federal government and win. But, we all feel very strongly about not being allowed to vote. Women all over the country are taking action. With strong leaders like Alice Paul, I think there’s hope.

March 4, 1917

Dear Diary,

Our little marches are being noticed, but it’s hard to say how much progress we’re making. We’re picketing the White House almost every day now. President Wilson still doesn't support a constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote. We have been peaceful, letting our signs do the shouting for us. Today, I carried one that said, "MR. PRESIDENT, HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOR LIBERTY." But I think the president has too much else on his mind to pay any attention to us.

May 16, 1917

Dear Diary,

We have kept our vigil at the White House for months now. We have members of our group raising banners everywhere. Women all over the country are standing up for themselves.

June 22, 1917

Dear Diary,

One of our members was arrested today. Still, we won't give up.

August 10, 1917

Dear Diary,

More arrests today. Alice Paul was arrested in July. She went on a hunger strike to protest the horrible conditions in the jail. Now we hear that the jailers have been force-feeding her through a tube. I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to keep this up.

January 30, 1918

Dear Diary,

This month, President Wilson finally asked Congress to pass legislation granting women the right to vote. He called it a necessary “war measure.” It’s sad to think that we need the horror going on in Europe to help us gain a right we should have anyway.

October 2, 1918

Dear Diary,

Day before yesterday, the Senate failed to pass the suffrage amendment again. The House of Representatives passed it in January, but we just can’t seem to get the support we need in the Senate.

June 5, 1919

Dear Diary,

What a day!! On May 21, the House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Yesterday, the Senate followed. We are just waiting for it to be ratified by the states now. Soon, Women all over the United States will have the right to vote!

I'm so proud to have been a small part of this struggle that has been going on in this country for more than 70 years. Women's lives will be changed forever. Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, the laws will finally give us all the same rights as men, and maybe we’ll even have a woman elected as president!


On my next post, I will be introducing everyone to the 4th annual “One World One Heart” blog event. I will be giving away one of my hand made creations in a drawing as well as showing you my studio and other areas of Woodloft, my home. Nothing here is what would fall into the category of “norm” but if you have been following my posts, you already know that. You won’t want to miss this post!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010



Bas-relief I created depicting three Goddesses

From the Temple of Sulis Minerva to ancient Greece: Athenas, Aphrodisia, Egyptian Ma’at …

Woman Re-Membering emerges.

Bas-relief with mosaic tile

Is there a memory of something primordial begging to emerge from our beings? Do our cells contain a remembrance of some far off time, a time when we were a matriarchal society? If this is true, how can we activate that memory?

In her new book, Woman Re-Membering, Lizbeth Clay invites you to explore your female integrity. She says,

“Your body is your greatest teacher to awaken you to inner essence and integrity that wants to be unveiled and known. I invite you to take time each day to breathe deeply into your body, becoming receptive and alert to its inner depths and intelligence that seek to guide you. If it feels true, state your willingness to be in greater alignment with your body’s wisdom and truth. Ask your body to deepen your understanding of who you truly are. I suggest you keep a journal of the growing dialogue.”

Woman Re-Membering

Close-up of large stoneware clay planter

Lizbeth also states,

“Remember, listen and lean into your inner environment with your senses, feel into the pulse of your inner space. Do the same with your external environment; open yourself to your surroundings, listen and lean into the elements that give you life. Stretch into the reality of water, wind and earth. Breathe of the sun and the moon. Open your nervous system to the rich biodiversity that sustains you. When moving throughout your day, take time to connect to the larger elemental reality that surrounds and holds you…"

Life size stoneware clay wall sculpture

As I read through Woman Re-Membering, I started thinking of the strong women who have made a difference in my life – women who were not afraid to take a stand, women who were not afraid to show their love, women who embraced their existence as women.

My great grandmother, Elizabeth Dillon

One of these women was my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dillon. Elizabeth came to the United States from Wales during the potato famine. She had a strong sense of family. When her daughter, Kate, lost her husband in a mill accident, Elizabeth took in Kate and her four children, one of whom was my mother. And when her sister died during childbirth, Elizabeth took in her sister’s son and raised him, too. Elizabeth believed in expressing herself by following her dreams. She sang with a Welsh singing group named the Cymafa Cannu.

My grandmother, Kate Smith

Another strong woman was my grandmother, Kate. After her husband died, she and her mother raised my mother and her three sisters. Kate worked hard to support her children. When circumstances required, she did whatever it took to bring in extra money. At one point, for example, she worked as a janitor, scrubbing floors at night in a dance hall so that one of her daughters, my mother, could have dance lessons. Kate never wavered in her commitment to raising her children and spent her life doing whatever she could to provide for their happiness and welfare. (She did not like to have her picture taken so I was unable to find a very good one for this post.)

My mother, Margaret Jane Galloway

My mother, Jane, was probably the strongest female influence in my life. She had a way of looking at life that enabled her to see the humor in almost any situation. As a consequence, she could tell stories drawn from her daily experience and that of her friends and acquaintances that left us all reeling with laughter when we heard them. She was also a liberated woman before that idea was as popular as it has become over the last 30 or 40 years. Even as she raised my brother and me in the 1950’s, she believed that a woman should always work outside of the home. She said that a woman should never give her power away by not having her own income. Mom was also a strong believer in physical fitness for women before it was in vogue. She was very athletic and believed in exercising the body as well as the mind. Many pictures of her show her standing on her head.

One of many photos showing my mother and her famous headstands

When my life handed me some challenges that otherwise might have overwhelmed me, I was able to draw on the examples of these strong women to find my own courage. Their example helped find the strength to nurse my mother through the long, agonizing decline of Alzheimer’s disease. It helped keep me going through periods of near hopelessness when my elder son, Charlie, developed a serious health problem at the tender age of sixteen. And most recently, it has helped me weather the emotional roller coaster of cancer when my elder daughter, Kelli, developed multiple myeloma. After months of treatment with suboptimal results, we traveled to Richmond last year where Kelli underwent a stem cell transplant at MCV. Even though she has done well since then, every new round of tests causes another round of anxiety; and I’ve found that calling upon the memory of these strong women from my family’s past gives me the strength to face the next round of challenges, whatever they may be.

This is an old photo of Val, on the right, and yours truly at one of the many art shows where we exhibited our work.

I have also chosen friends who are strong. Although I could mention many, I want to focus on one in particular, Val Padar. Val raised her younger sisters when their father died and their mother was hospitalized for a prolonged period and then died. She has led a life of no compromises and stands firm in her convictions.

Stoneware clay sculpture

As I relate back to Lizbeths book, “Woman Re-membering” I am drawn to her invitation:

“Read the following statement and if it feels true for you, breathe its essence deeply into your body.

“I turn to the Primordial Female Deep and the Mysteries contained there within. I invite my archaic dimensions of be-ing to guide me in the Female Way so I may impact the elements that have long undermined and (dis)ordered me. I wish to greater inhabit the deep and subtle levels of my be-ing so as to flourish my female essence. I desire to dance in my truer ground and potential as a woman. I open to the Primordial Female Deep that lives within me!”

I am also reminded of a verse Val sent to me of her own dance. Val said the verse she wrote, “The Dancer,” came to her as a stream-of-consciousness revelation. She was aware of nothing but the dance.

The Dancer

“I put on my favorite “Soundscapes” …I walked into the living room. The sounds of Enya filled the house, the sun streamed through the windows, the crystal I hung created prisms on the deep orange rust walls. The floors looked like soft glass, the shades of the stain wrapped the whole room in warmth.

“And then she appeared. As she drifted back through time, her body slowly remembered. The music and knowledge spoke to her. Combining elements of modern dance, tai chi, free form movement and ballet, she glided across the floor. She was the sun, the floor, the air. Her movements flowed seamlessly as she danced down the hall and back around to the living room, round and round. She was one with the moment, with the music, with her spirit. She was ‘The Dancer.’ “

Val’s verse has instilled in me a desire to create a sculpture relating to her experience. I cannot think of a better title. Watch for my post about this sculpture in the future.

One of my Goddess Ceremonial Necklaces being lifted from sand, as though she were being dredged from antiquity

In Woman Re-Membering Lizbeth states:

“Know this…
Your heart knows the secrets of your soul
Of who you are
What you can create

“Let this calling slowly reveal itself within you.
Believe it. Nurture it
and you will Re-Member your self!”

I think that Lizbeth is onto something; and I think that part of what our hearts know about who we are and what we can create comes from the example of the powerful women who have touched on our lives.

For those who may wish to purchase the book, you can find

Woman Remembering
Reclaiming the Soul and Instinct of Our Femaleness
An Ecological Treatise for the Emancipation of the Female Force
By Lizbeth Clay

Goddess vessel I created while in Italy

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