I am excited about integrating and expressing inspirations from Nature's Beauty and many life experiences into my coil and slab built clay sculptures and wallhangings. My life experiences include over 13 amazing years working as a compassionate and empathic home health registered nurse. During that time in my life, playing in clay was a joyful and healthy hobby. But life is certainly filled with beginnings and endings and I was able to recognize when it was time to move forward. Although I released working as an R.N. in the traditional sense in 1999, I believe that life has been, and continues to be an amazing healing Journey. It is certainly filled with mysteriously synchronistic events that continually reveal that ALL things are inter-connected.
With love and gratitude, I have been weaving all of the pieces of my life together and they have formed the clay artist, teacher, mystical story-teller, nurse-healer, empath-intuitive, loving caretaker, herbalist- gardener, free thinker that you see expressed in my life work. Immersing myself completely in the entire process involved in clay creation has helped me become very aware that intangible thoughts can be transformed into tangible things. Creating in this manner requires authentic power and that certainly involves being fully focused on the present moment. Working in clay has been a gift in itself because it has taught me the art of patience, being flexible, allowing the Divine Presence to flow into the work, and knowing the best time to work on various aspects of the ceramics process. Like all good things, good clay ART also takes time. In fact, much more time than most people realize. One of my dear friends, Lori, is a painter and she was recently staying here for a few days. She saw me unloading my kiln and asked me why there was no color on the pieces. I explained that the work has to be fired in the kiln at least two times. It is funny because I have even had customers at shows see a particular piece, but while they were looking around, someone else purchased it. Then they asked if I could have another one ready by the next day. I explained that it often takes over a month from the creation of the piece to the final firing of it. I worked on one Tree sculpture for over eight months.
When I was growing up as an only child, our family moved to a new location approximately every three years. My wonderful and gentle Father, Paul Allen Dennis was a member of the Air Force and they moved us around alot back then. My amazing Momma, Diana Rose Bush Dennis was a devoted Mother who stayed at home nurturing us until I was a teenager. She tried to answer my continual questions about life and death and why the sky was blue. My life journey began in Watertown, New York on the ninth day of May in 1963 - close to Mother's day. Much of my early life was spent up north and on the east coast. I lived about three years in each of the following places: Baudette, Minnesota, Chicago, Ill. Bedford, Virginia, Sumter, South Carolina, and Bremerhaven Germany. Living in so many places was critical to the formation of my perception that we are all ONE. We share the highs and lows of the human experience on beautiful planet Earth.
In contrast, my husband Chris Nelson grew up on the west coast and was born in Oregon.He, too, moved very frequently while he was growing up and expanding his vision. We were destined to met in Mississippi many moons later in May of 1990. While growing up, my Mother's Mother, Ethel, lived with us a great deal of the time. She had her entire right leg amputated when she was merely five years old. In spite of that, she still had six healthy children that she lovingly raised to the best of her ability. Grandma had a tremendously positive influence on my life. In fact, I adored her and gave the eulogy at her funeral. After her death, I had just started watercolor painting again and was so depressed that I stopped painting. In a dream, she visited me and told me that she loved me so very much and that she wanted to see me doing my Art work. She said that there was no need for such sadness and to be Joyful and to celebrate her life and to KNOW that love never dies.Then she hugged me and kissed me. And so I woke up crying, but knowing that I must certainly live the somewhat uncertain life of an artist. That was just prior to leaving nursing.
Traveling throughout my life has offered me many opportunities for growth and enabled me to meet people throughout the United States and Europe. We often visited museums and my love of All things "ART" emerged. Frequent moving helped me learn to keep my heart and mind open and to see that although people appear to have many differences, it is essential that we look for common ground. While in high school in Germany, I lovingly played in clay under the Guidance of a wonderful instructor. We left Germany and moved to Mississippi in 1980. Later, in college, I had a brief love affair with clay for two semesters while participating in an intense nursing program. Art in clay did not become my "passion" until I released many of the fears that were limiting my creative expression. At the time, I was so often concerned with grades and the outcome of the clay work, that I was not able to appreciate the JOY that is such an integral aspect of the creative process. At that time, I simply did not trust that I could make a living doing what I had loved since I was a child. It was not until much later that I came to realize that I would wither and die IF not allowed to express what my heart and soul compelled me to do. Certainly,working as a nurse made me a better person and allowed me to serve many wounded Beings, but I see now that it was only a piece of the puzzle of my life. Fortunately I did not stop there and give up on the dream of being an artist.
In 1999, with the support and encouragement of Chris, I made a blind leap of Faith and completely released my nursing career of 15 years and dedicated myself to working with clay full-time. Actually, that is when I finally awakened to many beautiful things. Fortunately, my loving and encouraging family was there to assist me through the transition from nurse to artist. My parents always told me that I could be and do anything that my heart desired. Imagine what a beautiful world we would live in IF each person believed this! My husband and partner Chris David Nelson has continually and tirelessly encouraged me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I acknowledge that without him, I would not have been able to develop my Gifts and share them with the world. Whenever possible, I have taken workshops and classes to improve my knowledge and skill. Experimentation, experience and alot of Intuition have probably been my greatest teachers. I have been through so many stages of growth that I can simply not identify them all. I see it as a continual, ongoing developmental Journey and my focus these days is on QUALITY of life and work. Another one of my dear women friends, Carol, told me that she has a sign in her studio that says "Dear Creator/God, please handle the quality and I will handle the quantity." In past years I have participated in many outdoor juried art shows and festivals, but it is quite unpredictable, often has numerous challenges and quite frankly, is very hard work. My husband tells me to "work smart, not hard". The older I grow in wisdom, the more I agree with that. Somehow I feel like it is important to cultivate an attitude of Joy and Gratitude and find pleasure in whatever we are doing. If I don't like a particular thing that I am working on, such as mixing chemical glazes, I tell myself that it will not last forever. I tend to do the same thing when I am feeling blissed out and excited about something. It is more about the middle ground and avoiding extremes these days.
Since I am an "extroverted hermit", I have always loved the interaction with people at the shows. There is often a sharing of stories and HUGS exchanged at that time. People are amazed at the coincidences that happen very often to people that I interact with. I simply expect miraculous things to happen and they frequently do. I once made a special ordered, commissioned wedding plate for a nurse that I met. Believe it or not (It's True!)her name was also Becky. She told me that her son had not forgiven her for some painful things from childhood and they had not spoken in a long time. To hurt her, he did not invite her to the wedding. I want to mention that I have many bumper stickers on my green mazda protege' car Lily, and one of them says: "Compassion is the best revenge."I told Becky that I felt like I could be a mediator and help her with the separation by creating a wedding plaque that might bridge the gap between them. Anyway, she did not know where he lived, but did know where he worked. "Her" plan was to send the finished Gift to him there. When I pulled the Wedding Plate/ wallhanging out of the kiln, I was very happy it turned out beautifully (I am picky) and Chris suggested that I take it to the Festival in Diamondhead, MS that we were doing at the time. So I did that and posted a note saying I could recreate another piece and was willing to take orders. I hung the plate up in the booth and on the last day of the show, miraculously, the son and his wife showed up at the festival and were shocked to see this plate with their names on it. Actually their faces became very pale and the young woman looked like she would faint. I asked for Guidance and felt that the best thing to do for this sweet, young couple was to give them the piece to take home with them. I hoped that Becky would not mind and would see how amazing it all unfolded. While wrapping it up, I told the young man that his Mother loved him very much and perhaps he could send her a thank you note. Well, he later did just that and the lines of communication opened up and they experienced a healing. Certainly we are here to serve each other on this path of life.
I have been very Fortunate to receive various awards including a Juror's Choice Award at the Ohr Rising museum art exhibition post Katrina. I have also received Awards at various juried Art festivals that I have participated in. My pieces have been displayed on three occasions at the Ohr musuem. More than anything, that is validation to me that quality is most important. In truth, I do what I love and it does not matter whether my work receives awards or not. In a world focused on "outward" things, my life is about "Self actualization," Awareness and Connections. At this time, I feel myself moving more in a Gallery direction and find that the Universe gently moves me in the best direction IF I listen to the Guidance and simply pay attention. I will still be doing juried art festivals, but will be selective about which ones that I do since they are so exhausting and intensive.
The imaginative TREE sculptures that I create are a tangible expression of my ongoing growth and development. In many of the early pieces, there were women emerging from the trees, but there were often missing body parts, including the heads. In retrospect, I believe that is a reflection that my life did not FEEL whole or complete at that time. I did not, so to speak, have my head on "straight". In the sculpture entitled "Having a Vision" there is a pregnant woman emerging from the tree. It was around that time that I finally gave birth to a new creative Self. The oak Trees on our Mississippi Gulf Coast continually fill me with a sense of Awe and Inspiration. Their roots are firmly grounded, yet they aspire upward and outward as they grow into Fullness with the changing seasons. In so many ways, I perceive that we are alot like those Trees. Hurricane Katrina has taught us all many lessons, including releasing with love, going with the Flow of things, and most importantly; to see Beauty even when it appears ugly. In my experience, we really have to learn to see with our hearts. Our coast carries the scars of that day in so many ways. After nearly three years, in 2008, there are still "slabs" of concrete dotting the landscape where tall, majestic homes once stood. Perhaps home is within our hearts and we carry it with us wherever we go.
In the past I took numerous journeys to northern California to visit my dear friend, Linda , from high school. She was instrumental in reintroducing me to clay after a long break. I had been obsessed with working and had forgotten my love of clay. On that visit, she carried a large plastic bag of clay to the coffee table and very simply said: "It is time." Later when I returned to Mississippi, I had a dream that I went into the basement of a building (my subconscious) and saw all these beautiful clay pieces of ART. When I woke up, I called around and found where I could purchase clay and a place to work at Handsboro art center. That was a fantastic group of people. We worked like a little cooperative and studied under Larry Roe. It was at that time that Chris and I met our beloved friend Kemba. I knew that I loved her when she found my ruby ring that I had lost at the center and called me to return it.It was the first Ring that Chris had ever purchased for me. Since that time, I managed to lose my wedding band while working in clay. Initiallly I was upset, but my feeling is that it is NOT the ring that defines my relationship. All the memories and experiences in my life are reflected in who I am at this moment. That is why it is so important to find a peaceful place within and to allow that to eminate outward.
Back to the northern California experience, while visiting Linda Butler in 2002, I was able to go and walk through a Redwood forest and to also sit inside a gigantic redwood Tree. In all the world, the pacific west is the only place in which they magically grow. Perhaps the conditions are favorable for them to thrive in that one area out west. In the summer of 2008 there were many wild fires burning out there and although this is a normal cycle of cleansing, many beautiful trees are vulnerable.What is really tragic is seeing the number of logging trucks that leave the redwood forests filled to the top with these SLOW growing Trees. May I suggest that everybody needs to experience a redwood tree at least once in a lifetime! During my visit in 2002, I was able to climb down into the base of one of the Trees that had been hollowed out by fire, but was still alive.
While in that tree, I began to cry. I sat there in the dark, moist earth and felt the energy of that Tree. It was in that moment that I felt gratitude for every single thing that had happened in my life because I knew that it needed to happen that way. The same awareness came over me after living through hurricane Katrina. I felt at peace with the pain of the past and knew that I had to learn to completely surrender to be whole. It was especially important to be aware of the wounded perceptions that I had of myself as unworthy of love and joy and peace of mind. I became Aware that every single thing is connected by the Creator and has a purpose. It is simply not up to us to judge any experience as good or bad. We, in our limited perception, do not see the BIG picture. While in that burned out, resilent Tree, I saw that the fires in life transform us, just as the Kiln transforms soft clay into stone. We, too, can rise like the phoenix out of the ashes. When we connect with our true nature, then our lives become a work of art in progress. We can learn to enjoy the crazy ride of life if we are willing to take our controlling hands off the steering wheel and say weeeeeeeeeeeee.
Now I am going to talk about our CATS. So, if you do not LOVE cats, well, please scroll down to the closing paragraph! My beautiful Grandma Bush loved cats and I believe my intrigue with them started at a young age, especially thanks to Grandma. We had a little dog named CoCo when I was living in South Carolina, but my Father arranged for us to give him back to the people we got him from when we moved to Germany. I have not had another dog since that time. It is not that I do not like dogs, rather, I simply prefer CATS. We currently have six and they fill our lives with love, laughter, joy, work and sacrifice. Hummm, kinda like children. I had a cat named Sunny for over thirteen years and was simply heartbroken when he died back in 2000. His death left Chris and I cat free for a few weeks: in which time I cried endlessly and proclaimed that I just wanted Sunny back. YES, I know, resistence does cause pain, but it was my feeling at the time. Obviously we must FEEL the pain, even move into it in order to heal. Most folks look for things to avoid it and numb it. I know. Been there, done that! Chris suggested that we rent a movie to temporarily distract me from the pain. When we arrived home, there was a calico walking up to our front door. We compassionately took her in, after discovering she was indeed homeless and wonderfully pregnant. We named her Kali (pronounced Callie) because Chris had a calico he loved in childhood. The spelling was left up to me and I spelled it Kali after the ferocious Hindu Goddess. After all, the Momma cat had to be pretty ferocious to survive on lizards and such in the brutal heat of July. Let me tell you, she is hot stuff!
We believe that the animals in our lives choose us, not the other way around! Kali arrived on a monday and by friday she had given birth to four kittens named Sunny Too, Yogi, Lukah and Leah. We jokingly tell people that we went from zero to five cats in five days. WOW! It seemed like such a perfect little family that we kept them all. Have no fear, we had them all fixed. In the months that followed, my sad heart grew light with the JOY of four kittens. Let me tell you, a potter with kittens is a crazy thing. Many times when clay pieces were broken, I had to remind myself that I loved the kittens more than the "stuff". Later, our family grew when a solid black cat that somebody sadly declawed and fortunately neutered, came to live with us. Gotta love black cats and Shadow is no exception. Then Leah left us very quickly Christmas night of either 2003. Soon after that another calico elder cat named Sassy came to live with us. She was a 12 year old neurotic gal that was very close to death when she chose us. One evening I was calling in the cats with whistles and Sassy crawled out of my outdoor kiln. She was so emaciated and thin that she had crawled into the small opening at the top of the kiln. I was not using it at the time and she must have felt safe in there. She left her home about four houses down because the food was better down here and stayed for three years until her death in 2007. Actually she had a broken hip at the hands of her previous owner. I found out who owned her when the "neighbor" saw pictures of our many cats at an art show and asked me why I had Presilla. I told him that she was very ill when she came to me and I planned on working with her until her death.
A great deal of healing took place in my heart and in Sassy's heart while nursing her back to health and then to her transition. Toward the end she had some urinary incontinence and I had to bathe her daily. I finally knew she was leaving because I dreamed that I was walking over a bridge barefoot and she was following me. Then, in the dream, I called my sister (am an only child, remember?) and she came to help me. Having studied native american teachings and shamanism, I knew that she was ready to leave her body behind and transition over. Chris and I lovingly took her to our wonderful vet, Dr. Hunt for the transition. Releasing Sassy helped prepare me for my Father's death that same year in August. All this after hurricane Katrina. You know what they say, what does'nt kill you makes you stronger!
Ivan, a grey manx, initially appeared back in 2004 and was named after the hurricane that hit Florida. We actually felt the winds here and although I tried, I could not catch that cat to bring him inside. I finally trapped Ivan and he is now part of the cat clan. He is a completely tail free manx and has many health challenges that have had to be addressed. Fortunately, I also studied how to utilize medicinal native Mississippi plants and have used them on all the cats (and family members and friends) with great success.I have had to hang his butt over my studio sink and scrub the poop many, many times. And so the cat tales go on and on, but I will share this with you: many cats are brilliant and perfectly trainable. Each one of the cat Beings that lives with us has a unique personality and they ALL respond to love with their own expression of love. Most of them PURR quite contentedly, and IF something is unsatisfactory, well, they even HOWL. Lukah and Ivan are probably the most vocal and expressive. Sunny Too acts so much like the cat that died that it is unbelievable. Not only does he act like him, he also looks like him. In fact, he is a sweeter and smarter version of Sunny One. Please look at the pictures of them under the "Real life pictures" gallery. I realize that I felt compelled to include this section and that some people will snooze, but it is a large part of our lives and certainly the inspiration for my "cat's galore gallery" which is part of this web site. These are clay pieces that were inspired by the four legged friends that teach us the power of unconditional love and acceptance.
One feature that distinguishes my "art in clay" is the spiritual message or philosophical story on the back. It is hidden away like an esoteric truth that one must search diligently for. Most people that gift me money for my work tell me that they feel like the message is perfectly suited for them. As I sculpt the clay, I tell myself that I am making the piece for the person that most wants and needs it. After years of experience, I trust that the person will mystically manifest to claim that particular piece. When they touch my "Art in Clay" and remain open, they will feel the radiant,Loving Energy in it and sense that it was made with awareness, attention to detail, deep reverence and is a certainly a celebration of the Journey of life.