The Clay Speaks–Update on Bodyguard

Posted by on Sep 26, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on The Clay Speaks–Update on Bodyguard

I have just finished the first layer of underglazes on Bodyguard.  To avoid having to fire the piece too many times, I applied underglazes to the unfired work (greenware).  
Although my plan was to have a fair skinned girl with red hair and blue eyes, the more I looked at the sculpture, the more I felt the need to go in a different direction–brown haired girl with brown eyes.  As you can see, the faces of girl and dog are at the same level, with facial features lined up.  Also, the dog’s eyes are quite anthropomorphic.  I wanted the eyes of both to be the same color.  Although Boston terriers, like other dogs, can have blue eyes, I felt that might be a bit much.  So the brown eyes work.
Here is an early photo–I have more recent ones, but need to update my iPhoto.  In the meantime, I wanted to get this entry posted.  

After firing, the  girl’s skin will be a little darker.  I’ll layer on more underglazes (in slightly different colors) and refire.
Because these two “own each other,” the dog has a collar, to which I will attach a bone-shaped license tag, with numbers that correspond to my name:
2-9-12-5-19 for BILES.
Well, here’s something spooky–heard from my brother the other day, who had seen my earlier post (before any underglazes were applied) and said, “I see you in this piece.”   That reminded me of when I was a Tween, had longer, straight hair and was thin–and, yes, there is quite a resemblance!  So that may have been a subconscious influence on my hair and eye color choices.  Growing up, we had only one dog, a cairn terrier mix my Uncle Gino rescued from the animal shelter.  His name was Mickey, after a dog my father had in his childhood.  Mickey and I were inseparable.  Spoo-ky….

Sharing Our Passions

Posted by on Sep 25, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Sharing Our Passions

When not in the studio, I’m in the classroom, as an artist-in-the-schools.  For the past 5 years, I’ve been contracted by schools in Wake and Johnston Counties.  With a background in biology and anthropology, and a tendency (possessed by many artists and scientists) to find connections between things, I’ve developed several programs that integrate different subjects (the technical term is “content areas”), like science and social studies  with art, and, for that matter, math, reading, etc.  
It’s been a great opportunity to share my passion of working with clay.  And to learn from very fearless creative people who are shorter than me–6 year olds!  Just kidding.  So far, I’ve worked with people ages 4 to 97 and have learned so much from everyone I’ve met.
Like being fearless and just enjoying the process, with little concern about the outcome (ages 4-6), what happens if you get too worried about the end result (a few kids here and there, ages 8-10), never to have preconceptions (all ages), the wisdom of enjoying the process with little concern about the outcome (yes, I know I just said that, but this lesson was from a 97 year old–amazing how it takes 90+ years to relearn that lesson, huh?).
On Saturday, 18 elementary school art teachers from Wake County, NC (Raleigh and Cary areas) came to the studio for a half-day workshop on clay projects.  The theme was animals and I set out several models I’d made for various grade levels.  
We had a great time.  Talk about dedicated!  My husband was a teacher for many years and we know teachers spend countless hours outside of the classroom preparing lesson plans, grading papers, etc.  Art teachers need tons of energy–they  have to set up for different projects many times a day and there is the potential for a lot of mess making that has to be cleaned up between classes (which are a few minutes apart) and at the end of the day.  I can make a pretty good mess with clay, but can you imagine paint, glitter and glue???
These teachers traveled an hour or more, so really gave up most of their Saturday.  
They brought wonderful food.  Sorry–no photo here  😉
We shared ideas.  
How one idea can work for different grade levels.
The teachers made several models they can use for projects with their own classes. 

What a thrill to be in the presence of so many talented people!

A creative use of tools.  This poodle was made by one of the participants.  

I used to be terrified to speak in public but it’s not hard when you’re passionate about your subject.

Even the clay models had a good time.
Afterward, I heard remarks like, “I can’t wait to get back to the classroom to share my new knowledge.”  One teacher said she now has a project for her fifth grade, studying Pre-Columbian art.

WhaddaYOUlookinat?  A jaguar pot for students studying pre-Columbian art.
Many thanks to Slater Mapp for taking and sharing the photos!!!

New Body of Work

Posted by on Sep 23, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on New Body of Work

Nothing like a commitment or deadline to get ideas out of your head and into the kiln!
For a while, I’ve had in mind a new body of work that combines human and animal figurative sculpture.  So, way back in May, I signed up to create a Masterwork for the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show.  It’s held every year in Raleigh, NC, over Thanksgiving weekend.  This is the guild’s 40th anniversary.
Several ideas ran through my head, but I felt most passionate about creating a series of pieces on people and their companion animals.  Here is a brief overview of how the Masterwork piece came to be.  
People often bring their dogs to outdoor art shows and,  in recent years, I noticed a lot of pugs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers.  I hadn’t seen a Boston terrier since childhood, a long time ago!  So I became interested in why these breeds are enjoying a resurgence.  Consensus is they are great family dogs, and do well with couples who live in apartments and can’t let dogs run loose.
We have a lot of dogs, but all have pointy noses, so I challenged myself to sculpt the aforementioned breeds as part of my “Big Dog” series.  (By the way, if you read my previous post, 5 dogs, including pointy nosed Opal and a fictitious daschund I named Madge are currently at the show at the Center for Creative Leadership, in Greensboro, NC. ) 
The piece, entitled, “Bodyguard,” is inspired by a photo I found searching the Internet (I think I keyed in “people holding dogs”).  Up came an image of a girl holding a Boston terrier.  It made me gasp aloud, “That’s it!”  OK, being somewhat compulsive, I continued my search, but this photo was clearly the keystone for the series.  
The photo was taken several years ago.  The girl, Phoebe Thompson, is the daughter of  Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III.  The dog (or is he a person in a dog suit?) is Chet Baker, named after a famous jazz musician.  To me, Phoebe has a mysterious Mona Lisa smile, with a touch of attitude, and Chet has a “Just try and mess with my person” look.  Of course, I’m not sure what Phoebe and Chet were actually  thinking, but my initial interpretation was that these two would fiercely protect each other.

Phoebe and Chet–the photo that inspired the Masterwork.  (Photo from Julie’s blog, included here with her permission)
Since the image is 2-dimensional and the sculpture is 3-D, I needed to be able to represent Phoebe and Chet from different angles.  After this initial discovery, I’ve been following Julie’s blog (check it out at, where she posts many photos of Chet (“Chet fixes”), along with many other wonderful photos.  [Quick digression–Julie is a Renaissance woman!  Bill is editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest–his blog is . (Check out the end of the telescope.)  They know everything here is to know about birds and Nature!] 
That has been most helpful.  However, it was obvious I needed a live model.  I didn’t know anyone who had a similar look, but our friend Sheri did….
Savannah came to the studio and was very patient as I took some photos and measurements–if you stand like Phoebe, what do you look like from the side and back; how long are arms relative to hands, relative to face, etc.   Since our dogs are either too big or too wiggly, Savannah held a beach towel part of the time.

Savannah–a most patient model!
I incorporated a lot of realism, but also took some artistic license (see post on Harried Possum).  And, although my initial vision was a red-haired, blue-eyed girl that may change, too.  Hope you don’t mind, Phoebe and Savannah!
Per the rules of the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Masterworks Program, Bodyguard may not be shown in any exhibition before the guild show in November.  However, I am allowed to show photos.  So here is a preview–


Bodyguard, close up
As I write this, the piece is drying slowly in my studio.  Please send good karma that it gets through its firings safely (and that I can get it into the kiln!  It’s heavy!). 
Currently, I’m working on two other pieces (a middle aged woman cuddling a small dog and an elderly man with an old dog) for this body of work.  More on those later.

Beyond Our Understanding

Posted by on Sep 4, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Beyond Our Understanding

Dad and me on a bridge over a gorge at Cornell University

I wasn’t sure I would post this, but have to get it off my chest.  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while.  It’s been a difficult summer.  On June 20, we lost our last horse.  He was 30, and had some health issues, but it was still unexpected and we were in shock.  

Then, on July 9 we got a call from my brother–the kind you dread: “Call me.”
My father, who had worked on July 8, became suddenly ill at 3AM and called 911.  After many tests, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

I was able to travel to upstate New York (600 miles away) see my folks on two occasions this summer.  During the second trip, my father’s condition suddenly worsened and we lost him on August 22.
So the last few months have been a whirlwind (or maelstrom) of shock, grief, disbelief, extreme worry and sadness.  So I won’t share all the details, but will mention a few things.

My cousin, Joe, is a priest and most eloquent orator.  He truly captured my father’s spirit and essence when he spoke at the wake and during the church service–how my father always helped people and made their lives easier through his work.  And that death is “beyond our understanding.”
When we told people about his passing, grown men would break down.  People I had never met were sobbing as they shook our hands at the wake.  So many told us about their interactions with our father–how much he helped them, how he brightened their day with his jokes and funny stories, how they always looked forward to seeing him.  I knew he was very generous in his dealings with people–he did a lot for what he charged, not at all like the stereotype of lawyer jokes.  But I had no idea how much until the wake–it was a rainy evening, in the summertime, when a lot of people we knew were out of town.  Still, the line extended out the door and we shook hands with visitors for four hours.
People have asked me how I am able to function so well.  I don’t, much of the time.  But, if I appear to, it’s for two reasons–it’s still pretty unreal, and Dad was never one to dwell on unhappy events or thoughts.  He kept telling me, “I don’t want ‘my situation’ to interfere with your work.”  When I feel down, I remind myself of that.
Still, there are so many questions–How could this happen to such a kind and generous man?  How could this horrible process be going on inside him and no one know? He devoted his life to taking care of his family and, after we moved away, our mother.  Why did this happen now, when his garden, his pride and joy, was flourishing (unlike most gardens in the area, and ours in North Carolina)?  He never got to see it or to taste his tomatoes and cucumbers.  Did Dad know he was unwell, but didn’t want to worry us?  Could we have done more?
Some things we are not meant to understand.
We met so many amazing people on this journey.  The compassionate and tireless nurses, staff and residents at Wilson Hospital, Woodland Manor, and Bridgewater Center.  I spent the night there–Dad’s last night.  He was not able to speak, but could communicate through hand squeezes for a while and, after that, eyebrow movements.   A couple of nurses told me what I would see and, when I described other changes, assured me that these are part of the process of dying.  It was surreal to be told, “That’s natural” or “That’s ok,” but the last thing Dad would have wanted was to suffer.
I’m glad that Dad got to enjoy life until very close to the end.  And I’m glad my mother is safe and doing well, despite many recent changes.  Thank you to everyone who told us “Ted stories,” who were so kind to my family, and who continue to visit my mother.  I’m almost afraid to mention names, for fear of leaving someone out.  But I have to say, we cannot thank Aunt Elvira and Uncle Sam enough, as well as Aunt Jennie, cousins Marilyn and Ron, Judy, Anita, Uncle Gino, my parents neighbors, Dad’s colleague Charlie Collison….the list goes on.  Thank you to Pucedo’s Funeral Home, who so gently helped us through this experience.  Thank you to John and Donna, who arranged for a 21-gun salute, to help send Dad on to his Next Life.
We’ve been so fortunate to have been spared the experience of losing a parent until now.  To those of you who have been through it, I realize that when I’ve said “I’m sorry for your loss,” I really didn’t appreciate the depth of the phrase until now.

A 21-Gun Salute–a most touching and beautiful ceremony.  Veterans and soldiers from 5 wars participated.  Father Joe is on the right.  (Dad served in the Air Corps in World War II–before we had an Air Force!).

Art for the Animals, Part II

Posted by on Aug 16, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Art for the Animals, Part II

Here are images of my other big dogs that are in the show:

The real Opal, one of our “puppies,” who are over 5 years old now, has a big smile and curvy legs, like a Queen Anne chair.  So I made her legs here extra curvy and left some sharp edges, to suggest wood or furniture.  
The story of of the puppies is a good subject for another post.  Here I’ll just say I named most of them after jewels.  Opal had spots that had different colored specs in them.  Now her spots are more uniform in color.  
The real Opal modeled for part of the time I sculpted, though she preferred to sleep under the slab roller.  She was not too happy about having various parts of herself measured!
Madge’s Balancing Act
I wanted Madge to look very stable, like she could sit up forever.  So she has stout parts, but also sinewy muscly parts, as do most daschunds I have seen.  I worked from photos.
The show was great, as I expected.  When you arrived, a representative from Red Dog Farm was at the entrance to the building with Tallula, a black angus calf.    There was also a dog.  Inside were a kitten, parrot, bearded dragon, and, of course Netop, the painting dog, along with her companion Ruby, who is part Carolina Dog.  Our puppies’ mother is a Carolina Dog and, coincidentally, one of our puppies is named Ruby.
Netop gave a great performance–he is a ball of energy.  Ruby was getting experience socializing. We had a great talk with their owners.

Art for the Animals

Posted by on Aug 10, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Art for the Animals

WOW-I am one of 7 artists invited to exhibit in a show called “In Our Care” at the Center for Creative Leadership, located on Route 220, just north of Greensboro, NC.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, when Laura Gibson, the art coordinator and an animal advocate, invited me, I was thrilled.  This is a very prestigious place to exhibit and I had the privilege of showing there a couple of years ago as a member of Alamance Artisans Guild.  I’m still yelling “WooHoo” out loud, but probably at this point the people in downtown Raleigh can’t hear me, just those around the outer Beltline.

I got to see some of the exhibit when I brought my work to the Center–it is great.  The work is very diverse, but Laura knows how to hang a show.  

The other artists are:

Addren Doss-pastel and oil–wonderful!

Louise Francke–watercolor and oil–Exquisite!

Elaine O’Neil-beautiful and intricate textile collage

Rose Rosely-folk sculpture–she paints on wood and metal and you can’t resist smiling when you see her work

Traer Scott–beautiful photography that really captures the spirit and sould of her subjects

Now, I mentioned 7 artists–the 7th is a canine.  Netop, the painting dog, will be at the reception–he loves creating art and makes excellent work!  Seriously, some of his work reminds me of Chinese watercolor–I took a class in that–it wasn’t easy!

Doh!  Netop’s got a website, too–so he’s one up on me:

As you can see, I’m the only clay artist in the show.  Five of my big dogs will be there.  Here’s a taste:
Fawn.  I gave her big paws because a pug owner told me hers was a big dog in a little body.  I got a visual image of a lion, then the big lions in from of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.  So I made Fawn’s paws like those you might see on a lion statue.  There really is a method to my madness!
Roxie (the tennis ball is also clay, with underglaze).  I like the idea of the dog looking more toylike than her toy.

Also in the show are Opal (the only sculpture that looks like one of our dogs), Madge, and Pepper.  I’ll post those photos after the reception.  There is one more big dog, Paisley (a pied brindle French bulldog), but she developed a hairline crack on her third firing, so she’ll be staying with me.  That happens when clay gets fired multiple times, though I have to admit I have been very lucky.  I hated to see it happen, since she was a lot of work, but I’m happy to keep her.


When I took the dogs to Jason Dowdle, my awesome photographer, his dogs (Roscoe and Riley) started sniffing them.  Roscoe also got very excited when he saw the tennis ball–he wanted me to throw it!

The show runs from August 10 to November 19.   There will be a reception on August 28, from 5:00 to 7:00, and artists will bring smaller pieces to sell then.  (I’ll be bringing my small dogs and llamas.)  

These rottweillers take a lot of time to make, so I have only a few at this point.  But I’ll also bring some other breeds.  NOTE:  Also mentioned in an earlier blog, although there are realistic elements in my work, I do like to have some fun as I create and often include some anthropomorphism (often in the eyes or gesture), exaggeration, etc.  As these dogs say, “We don’t meet breed standards, but neither do most people!”


A portion of every sale at the reception will help support Red Dog Farm, in Greensboro, NC.  They rescue and find foster homes for cats, dogs, farm animals, alpacas, you name it.  

For more information about Red Dog Farm, see

I hope you will check out their website and find out how you can help.  If everyone did a little something, it would make such a difference in the lives of these precious creatures!

If you’d like to see the show, but can’t attend the reception, please call Laura at (336) 510-0975.  

The MOST FUN You Can Have at an Art Show

Posted by on Aug 5, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on The MOST FUN You Can Have at an Art Show

Everyone says this, but I can’t believe how past the time goes. Already, it’s time for Debbie’s and Eric’s show, Come Out and Play.  This is their 8th year!  I am so thrilled to be a part of it.  

Every year, Debbie and Eric offer their beautiful farm as the venue. They invite artists to install work in the yard, around the pond, in the pond, on the porch and even in the house.  The list of artists gets larger and more impressive every year.  All mediums are represented–painting, sculpture (clay, metal, stone, wood, fiber, mixed media, you name it), glass, etc.  (I have to say that for fear of leaving something out.)
Opening night is usually the last Saturday in August, from Noon til Dark (“when the cows come home”).  Artists bring covered dishes, Eric fires up the grill, Debbie prepared vegetarian and non-veg main dishes, and they provide drinks and eating supplies.  Then they have get-togethers every Saturday in September, from 4Pm until dark.  Many of the artists attend those days, as well.
To see their flyer, go to

This has become a huge event–attendance increases every year.  People get to walk around this lovely place (called JimGin Farm, after Debbie’s parents), look and (and buy!) amazing art, eat fantastic food, and visit with artists and art lovers.  Debbie and Eric have been involved with animal rescue, and allow dogs on leashes to visit with the people and their horses and cats.
Every year we say, “Wow is it that time already?”  And then we’re sad when it’s over and we have to wait another 11 months.
It really is the most fun you can have at an art show.

Getting Engaged–The Tao of Clay

Posted by on Jun 24, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Getting Engaged–The Tao of Clay

Do not dwell  in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while–I have a good excuse….
Suffice it to say that when I do get some time, the studio has been a place of solace.  Being in the present, forgetting (if only for a while) cares and worries.  
I was never a girlie girl, always loved to get dirty.  Still don’t mind.
Remember when you  were a child and could squat for ages, scratching designs on the ground with a stick? (or was that just me?  Heck, I’d be glad if I could just squat and get back up unassisted!)
Artists often mention in their Artist Statements that they are attracted to the tactile quality of clay–overstated perhaps, but it’s true–If I’m holding a lump of clay in my hand, I can’t resist squishing it.  
As we were cleaning up after a workshop at an elementary school recently, a boy asked if he could keep his extra clay.  I said no, we will use that for another class (I hate saying that–not that it’s untrue, but the clay needs to be fired to last and, the real reason–no one appreciates clay smooshed in the rug back in the classroom.  You know that’s what’s going to happen.  So I can honestly say it is mandated by the classroom teacher, and for good reason.)
That works for adults, too–
Anyway, after I said no, the boy asked if he could just hold the clay in his hand because he loved the feel of it.  This was after an hour-long workshop.  
Yep, he’s been bitten by the Clay Bug.
Being in the present–teachng–students with difficulty staying on task, myself…..
Do not dwell  in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
get lost, forget yourself–like you did as a child–totally immerse yourself…–I’m pretty hyper, but managed to do that in Mikes class one day–completely forgot where I was.   Out of the blue  Mike said something and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
That’s the thing about getting engaged–you forget….
get lost–
Thanks, I needed that!

New Body of Work (still play!)

Posted by on Jun 24, 2009 in Blog | 2 comments

Sometimes ideas are in my head for years before they come out.  Maybe they just need to brew a while, like a rich lager, or the nuances blend and soak in, like the ingredients in your favorite coleslaw dressing.

To have work at various price points, and to experiment with some new directions, I’ve been making small pieces.  When I do that, I also tend to be a little freer and experimental in a loose, whacky sort of way.  Like the difference between doodling on scrap paper and drawing on the expensive stuff.
I am creating a new body of work and will be making some bigger pieces.  A little scary, what with the economy, but this will feed my soul.  
I love being able to fuss and to include a lot of detail in my work.  Well, I say “love,” but there is a certain amount of stress involved, since the detail work takes a lot of time and can’t be rushed.  My left brain always has an idea of what I should accomplish in a given amount of time.  My right brain says, “Wouldn’t it be nice to linger a while on this section?”
With the two sides of my brain doing battle like this, in my early clay days, I felt pressure and angst (as ceramics professor Mike Sanford correctly described it).  Still, I had fun, in a manic, tortured sort of way.
Here is a product of those times.   I am very proud of her.

Harried Possum–fun under pressure.  When I was working B.S. (that’s Before Studio!), in the garage, with no temperature control and poor lighting, I gave myself 3 weeks to create this piece.  Problem was, my scientist-self kept researching possum anatomy and I nearly drove myself crazy.  (I know it’s “opossum,” but saying that takes so much more effort!)  Finally decided to stop looking at pictures and have some fun.  So here is a slightly anthropomorphic Mama Possum with her “To the Moon!” fist, as her babies skittle all over her back (if that’s not a word, it should be).  I made their feet large, figuring that’s what she must have felt–all those little claws digging in her back and toes pulling her hair.  (If you do the math, that’s a lot of toes!)
Every component was built hollow.  Note that the possum and log are both tripods. You can’t tell from the images, but the ears and tails have realistic texture and are very possum-y.
Detail view below.

Check out the teeth on that little one!  You don’t have to understand Possum to get the message!
And here is the back of the piece–

After the work was fired, I painted it with many layers of acrylic paint.
Now, with (1) a few years of experience under my belt, (2) the DESIRE to fuss, in a good way, and, (3, a harder lesson), knowing when to STOP, I’m going to give myself a gift of time.  Time to create more pieces like this, in all their fussy detail and glory!

Dances with Clay

Posted by on Jun 17, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Dances with Clay

An important purpose of the studio is to provide a venue for people to come and play with clay. To express themselves, have fun, and maybe we’ll sneak in a little learning.  So, while we are working at honing our craft, here, work really feels like play
Picasso said, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
And that is so true…at some point most of us tend to get self-critical and judgmental.  As an artist-in-the-schools, I’ve seen it in students as young as 8 years of age.  
Mike Sanford, my ceramics professor at Elon University, used to say (and probably still does)  “It’s only clay.”  
And THAT is so true.  (He also told me to try to have less angst. That’s been a tougher lesson.)
Clay is very forgiving.  As one of my young students told me, “I love clay!  If you make a mistake, you can fix it.”  Over the years, I’ve found myself quoting him and adding Mike’s remark, along with, “This is YOUR art.  It is not possible to make a mistake.”
Still, it takes a while for some of us to loosen up, relax, enjoy the process.  If you find yourself saying, “I could never make something like that,” or “I’m not artistic,” then I say:
Let’s make “Artwork” an oxymoron!
That’s not to say we shouldn’t or don’t art seriously, or that I never stress over a piece–I still stress more than I should.  But the clay, like a child, will tell on you.  When people see my art, the pieces they respond to most are those where (1) I got so engaged I completely forgot myself, or (2) I stopped my struggle-fest and reminded myself, “It’s only clay.”  [Thanks, Mike!]
Remind me to tell you about the piece, “Harried Possum.”
Anyway, those art “works” must send out some kind of kharma.
Two stories:
A family came over to celebrate their daughter’s 17th birthday party.  We had a clay party with family and friends, ages 5 to adult.  While one of the adults was fussing over his work (for him, it really was more like work than play), his five year old son would make something wonderful, gleefully mash it and create something new.
He did this at least half a dozen times.  I finally told him I’d be happy to give him as much clay as he’d like, that we can put all of his masterpieces in the kiln.  Nope, he was having a great time creating and re-creating.
My friend Wendy (an awesome metal and glass artist) volunteer-teaches a weekly art class at a senior center.  Her students have seen a lot of life and are still going strong.  She asked me to fill in one day, which I was happy to do–figured these people had a lot more to teach me than I could possibly teach them.  Ten or twelve women came in–one in a wheel chair, some a little slow moving, all excited about the upcoming “adventure.”  I’m sure they come in to Wendy’s classes like that every time.    
One lady stood in the doorway and did a little dance,  a nonverbal way of saying she was happy to be there.  She was 97 years old, by the way.  

A few people stopped by to tell me, “We’d love to take your class, but it conflicts with aerobics.  Sorry!”  Wow–how could I be upset about that?
The plan was to make clay faces–I call them Garden Spirits, human faces with leaves for hair.  I showed an example, along with one of my Kitty Gargoyles, faux finished to look like marble, as an example of how I thought we could finish our Garden Spirits.  (One of my artist-in-the-schools offerings is a gargoyle unit.)  The director and another member of the staff joined us.
One lady said, “I want to make a cat!”  In two minutes, everyone else did, too. 
Who was I to argue?  We made cat faces (one cat turned into an elephant–these things happen….).  
One lady was careful and perfectionistic–I have to include that for completeness and to convey how difficult the habit is to break.  But the others threw caution to the wind!  Some had arthritis and needed assistance; some created cats that were not so realistic; one woman made a cat in honor of a kitty she had earlier in her life.  
They had fun sculpting.  They had even more fun painting when I came back a couple of weeks later with the fired pieces.  

I think the red cat looks like one of the Beatles during their Yellow Submarine phase.

By the way, that 97 year old lady is still with us (she is now 98 years young).  I haven’t seen her since, but am told she hasn’t changed a bit!
So what happens to us between ages 5 and 97?  So many things….
When “working” in the studio, I often think of the little boy and those ladies.  I may crank up the radio (my husband’s mondo boom box from college) and dance a little, when I’m by myself.  (And hope no one’s coming to the door!)
Needless to say, if you come to the studio and want a handful of squishy clay to play with, just ask.  Then have fun smooshing it in your hand or making art.  Neither you nor your creation will ever be criticized.  I may offer a suggestion if I think you’d like to hear one.  If you want a critique, just ask ask.  I’ll be gentle.  This is a supportive, nurturing environment and always will be.
BUT–don’t ask me to dance in public–I can’t move nearly as well as that lady.