Testing, Testing

19 04 2017

This week, as part of my duties as vice president of standards for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, I chaired a Master Artisan jury session – a formidable event for jurors and candidates alike. (For details on this, visit https://www.pacrafts.org/our-guild/master-status)  It brought back memories of my experience on the applicant side of the equation.

How long had it been since I looked at the work that earned me Master status? How would those pieces look to me now, after all those years? I’ll admit, I was a little more than nervous, but I hung the works together and stepped back.

Damn. While they are not representative of my current work, they are part of me. They still speak to that place I was when I created them.

I am humbled and honored to chair this year’s Master Artisan jury sessions.  Remembering what it feels like to take the test helps make better teachers. I will not forget.


Let It Go!

3 12 2014

Although I have not seen Frozen and I have (perhaps luckily) heard its big song less than a half dozen times, the refrain is playing on a loop in my brain.

After what feels like a hundred years (really been about eight), at the end of this month, I am leaving my positions on the boards of my state craft guild* and my local chapter.**  I am sure it is what I want, what I need, and what the organizations need, but I do it with mixed feelings.

Many of you, I am sure, have found yourselves in similar circumstances: you’ve dedicated a large chunk of your energy, your brains, and your passion to a cause, an event, a job and one day, you wake up and realize you have no more to give.

You’re exhausted.



You know it’s time for you to turn over the reins to someone else. You’ve done your fair share and then some . . . but you feel a little bit funny walking away, even knowing that you truly NEED to take back your self.

I’ll admit there are a few ugly reasons that keep me from simply feeling relieved at unharnessing my self-imposed yoke. First, I feel an unreasonable pang of guilt for leaving a post (feels like quitting – I hate quitting!) that I know will be better served by fresh ideas.  Perhaps, it’s more that I fear that my value as a person is diminished, now that I am not a recognized member of the varsity . . .

The worst, shamefully, is that I fear giving up control within these two organizations to which I have been so deeply devoted.  It’s a selfish and silly feeling, but, there it is. What if those who succeed me do not treat my babies with the same love and respect?  What if they decide to cut their hair, change their names, or let them speak French???

They will – because they accept the role for the same reason as I did – to serve the organizations and help them prosper – exercise the same care and invest the same thoughtfulness and assert the same passion as I did these last several years.

If familiarity does not absolutely breed contempt, it surely breeds stagnation; it is time for me to let it go . . . or in the words of another famous movie songstress, Lili Von Schtupp,  Let’s face it – I’m exhausted!


*Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen www.pacrafts.org

**Yellow Breeches Chapter www.ybcrafts.org

PGC Thanks Cert

Happy Art News – Yes, In THIS Economy!!!!!

18 04 2012

This week, my beloved Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, took a very big step forward for fine craft in Pennsylvania.

We bought a building!

What’s the big deal about that?  Well, first, let’s think about what this bold move says about our area: we appreciate, participate, collect, and support fine craft and art.  Now, consider what it says about the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen: we are a well-managed, fiscally solid organization.  Finally, think about what this purchase says about fine craft and the members who make it: we are worth it!

There is so much opportunity for everyone to share this extremely positive move for the arts in our state.  Join the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, donate some money and/or time, patronize our shows, and enjoy the benefits of living in such a culturally rich area.

In a few months, this will be home!

Loads more show information and membership details can be found at www.pacrafts.org.  I’m the president of the Yellow Breeches Chapter, so I’d urge you to select us as your chapter affiliation!  You can find out about our chapter at www.ybcrafts.org.

P.S. If you think you’re not “arty” enough to get involved with this, you’re wrong!  Just find out more about the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.  We’re the really nice people who live next door to you.

Melting Pot

3 11 2010

There is truth, beyond the laptop, in the computer acronym GIGO –       garbage in, garbage out.

The inverse is also true – good stuff in, good stuff out!

Last weekend, the craft guild to which I belong presented its first-ever members-only craft show.  Even though we know each other and have seen each other’s work, when it all came together in one beautiful place, we were knocked out.  There was a world of diverse materials and styles and design and presentation, yet it all blended to form one stunning celebration of art.

We have a choice every day to bring our garbage or our good stuff.  Choose the good stuff.

Here, just in time for the opening of holiday cooking season, is a recipe for a delicious appetizer that features a melting pot of flavors – Italian prosciutto, French white wine vinegar, Dutch gouda, and Mexican tortillas – to make my point.  Always choose the good stuff.

Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla  6 appetizer servings 

2T           unsalted butter

1              large onion, thinly sliced

2T           brown sugar

½ t          white wine vinegar

1 ½ c      shredded smoked Gouda

4              10” flour tortillas

2 oz        prosciutto, chopped

Melt 2T butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, brown sugar, and vinegar and cook, keeping a watchful eye and stirring often, until the onion is a deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Divide cheese, onions, and prosciutto evenly over 2 tortillas.  Top with remaining tortillas. Heat a griddle to a good grilled cheese sandwich temperature, and then brush with melted butter. Cook quesadillas on griddle, brushing topside with more melted butter. Turn after one side is golden brown and finish cooking other side to golden brown beauty and melted cheese heaven.

Cut each quesadilla into wedges. Don’t burn your tongue because you can’t wait to eat this!

No, there is nothing remotely Mexican-flavored in this dish.  It is certainly not something to serve with guacamole and salsa.  It is, however, one of the most deliciously rich and flavorful appetizers you will ever taste!  I also serve this dish with a large leafy green salad as a light (ha ha) supper.

Money Well Spent

20 10 2010

I cannot live with practical alone, my life needs poetry.    –    Lianne Raymond http://www.lianneraymond.com/bio.html

In America today, we are constantly reminded that times are tough, the economy is on the verge of collapse, that rainy day is right around the bend. Pundits and purveyors of financial snake-oil threaten us from every public medium with their apocalyptic vision of our disappearing wealth.  All roads lead to the demise of the American dream – America itself – UNLESS we adopt their particular saving/spending strategy.

Okay, I get it.  We are less prosperous as a society than we were some years ago.  There is a need to spend money carefully.  We should walk away from the super-sized consumption habits we adopted in decades past, just as fast as we walked away from leg warmers and parachute pants.  What I DON’T get is the how things are valued – what is fashionably “practical” today.

So, let’s examine “practical” expenditures – what are the necessities of life in our neighborhoods?  I have often heard the old (and never-disputed) saying, “Man does not live by bread alone.”  I like Ms Raymond’s elegant paraphrase even better.   I believe we harm ourselves and our society if we deny there are some things that are almost as essential as food, clothing, and shelter to keep us alive and healthy. 

Music, Art, Poetry, Literature, Dance

The absence of any of these would not cause physical death; however, what an erosion of humanity we would suffer for their loss.  Through the arts, we share what is inside each of us, what we cannot see or touch, but is as much a part of us as our bones and tissue.  The arts allow us to bridge a mental-physical communication gap that cannot be closed any other way. 

If the doomsday pundits are right, if times are growing meaner, we need to guard against becoming meaner ourselves.   If we are reduced to the simply physical, we accept ourselves as just animals.  It is the arts that raise mere existence into life. They reflect and magnify the beauty in the world. The arts are not luxuries.  We must support them because they surely sustain us.  

We can survive with practical, but with the arts, we can really live.


28 09 2010


Last Wednesday, I took four pieces of work – and my soul – to the amazing pottery studio of Kevin Lehman, the head of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s Standards Committee. There, along with the work of several dozen other hopefuls, my offerings would be reviewed and critiqued by a panel of expert fine craftsmen to determine whether or not we had achieved “mastery of our media” – whether or not we would be awarded state juried status.

After we delivered the best of our creativity, we were banished from the premises while the jurors deliberated. When that studio door closed behind us, I was not prepared for the weakness in my knees and the knot in my stomach. After about half an eternity (about ninety minutes, really,) we were ushered back into Kevin’s studio to learn our fate.

There they were – right there on my display panel – the coveted tulip stickers, signifying I’d made it.  I was juried!  My ability as an artist has been verified  .  .  .  wait a minute! 

What am I talking about?  Does being an artist require independent confirmation; of course not. Since the first time I witnessed someone’s reaction to one of my enamels, I knew I could create an emotional connection with the viewer through the work. I belong to a wonderful group of artists and craftsmen who support and nurture each other simply because we love fine craft and the people who make it. They have been generous and lavish with compliments and encouragement.

Then, why am I so giddy? What made me want this recognition with such intensity?

Oh, how I hate the cognitive dissonance this kind of situation creates in my weary mind.  Upon closer consideration, the real issue came to the surface. I need to answer the question “What does juried status really mean to me?”  It is not about the affirmation that my work is good, although that is always nice to hear. It is not about the (very cool and prestigious) tulip stickers that I can proudly affix to my enamels.  

Reaching this goal has lifted me. I am so happy to share my victory with my beautiful and creative friends.  I suppose it is reason enough to set goals – simply to have something to celebrate with those you love.

Okay, it’s also about the stickers.

Wide World of (Arts Festival) Sports

12 05 2010

Ah, the arts festival – where one can observe the human drama of intellectual and emotional competition – the agony of indecision or the thrill or acquisition. I have SOOO been there and I can assure you from experience, thrills are way better! 

Now, how does one assure their acquisition is a love match and they won’t find the thrill is gone when they take their new find home to meet the parents/wife/wallpaper?  The answer is really simple- so simple you may have trouble at first trusting its never-fail reliability.  Ready?  Here it is.

Acquire LOTS of art.

Acquire LOTS of art.  If you have only a few things in your collection, you can fret they may not “go together” or, if they match for sure, you’ll grow bored with them.  If you have even just a handful of works you love individually, they will start to find their places naturally in your family of art. Just like your kids, your pets, your friends, your art pieces can be different and – as long as you love each individually – enrich each other and you. Acquire LOTS of art. 

The only corollary to the Acquire LOTS of art guideline is to buy what you love – don’t force yourself.  Much as it pains me, an artist, to say this, it is okay to leave an arts festival empty-handed – not fun, but okay.  The thrill of acquisition is addictive, so if artists want to cultivate collectors – and we do – we want you to never settle. Buy what you love.  We’re sure you will find something that takes your breath away.  Be patient, relax, visit us often at festivals, galleries, studios and – it’s thrilling –

 Acquire LOTS of art.