If Spring Ever Comes... by Teresa Wooden

Holy cow...It's mid-April and the snow is coming down, on top of the ice that came down yesterday, on top of the sleet that fell the day before that.  It's spring in Michigan, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature.  The daffodils are still in bud and now encased in ice.  The tulips that weren't eaten down by rabbits are frozen.  However the birds outside my window are unfazed...they are singing spring songs and chasing one another around while investigating potential nesting spots...they give me hope.

The second annual Artz and Gardenz Studio Tour is scheduled for this Mother's Day weekend, May 12th and 13th, from 10 to 5 each day.  I had planned to have my straw bale garden planted and growing, the tulips in full bloom, and a full studio of work to greet visitors.  Well at least I will have some new work...since it's too cold to go outside I've been getting lots done in the studio.

I will be firing some sculptures and small pieces in Mike Taylor's wood kiln again next week.  I've made a trio of wild pony sculptures that I'm excited to fire.  I've also been stacking up lots of carved work and some garden pieces to fire here in my own studio, and I have a new metal sculpture or two to unveil!  Even if the snow is falling I'll be excited to have folks stop by and visit me and see my little workspace in our underground home.  You can find more info on the tour on our website, www.artzandgardenz.com and on our facebook page (artz and gardenz studio tour).  Hope to see you then!


Happy New Year! by Teresa Wooden


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  It never seems to stop here in southwestern Michigan, and each morning I get up and look out the window with a mixture of excitement and dread.  It's so very beautiful.....but I have to go get the shovel.  Again.  Every. Day.  There is consolation when I come back inside, make a lovely cup of tea in a cup from my pottery collection, and curl up with the bulldog to page through the seed catalogs that are arriving each week.  The solstice has passed, and the days are getting longer...I can get back to my garden soon!

The New Year finds me at somewhat of a crossroad.  I am pondering how I will continue to make and market my work.  Arthritis is making it more difficult to carve for any length of time, causing my fingers to swell if I work too long, and my neck to hurt like crazy.  So I may begin drawing and painting on my pots with underglazes.  Or simply using acrylic paint to finish sculptural works, like the barn owl photo included with this post.  Stay tuned for some photos of those experiments in the coming months.

After hauling pots, tent, shelving and walls to several shows this year, Bob and I looked at one another and declared that this was no fun.  Uphill and downhill on grass without walkways, parking several blocks away from setup...and although we did just fine at these shows, the general direction of the art fair market is definitely trending downward.  Many artists are failing to make their expenses, or making very little over that.  So, looking ahead, it is clear that another approach may be desirable, at least in our own opinions.

I will be offering classes, but though they were scheduled for January they have now been pushed back to March for several reasons.  I'm also thinking of offering one-day workshops during the summer months, to make a platter, a set of mugs, serving bowls, garden sculptures, things like that.  And I will definitely have to get my Etsy shop up and running again.

But for now, the next big thing is planning and prepping for the second annual Artz and Gardenz Studio Tour for next Mothers' Day weekend, May 12-13, 2018!  I'm so excited to get together with our little group of talented artists to kick off the plans in a couple weeks.  There is much optimism and excitement to see how our little project grows and succeeds.

I've posted a couple photos of my studio entry garden, all lit up for the holidays.  Thanks to those who dropped by for our open house in November!  Wishing you all a very prosperous, happy and healthy New Year!  See you next year!

All the best,



Cleaning up my Act by Teresa Wooden

Brrr!  It's wet and cold outside already and I had to kick the furnace on in my studio last week.  Snow is forecast for this week...Where did Autumn go?  I'm not ready!!!  

I'll be busting my bucket in the next couple weeks getting ready for my first annual Holiday Open Studio here.  I have work to finish, work to glaze, and the entire studio to clean and organize before anyone can see what a mess I make in the creative process.  Honestly, you can hardly find an open space to set a coffee cup down right now.  I may have to enlist some help.

I just finished helping friend Mike Taylor fire his awesome wood-fired kiln, "Seraphina", and got some killer pieces out of the firing, so I'll post some pics of those for this month's entry.  The bear and fox will be waiting to greet visitors here at the studio on November 18th and 19th, from 10:00 to 5:00 each day.  I promise you'll be able to walk through the shop without tripping over clay boxes, and I'll even clear a spot so you can set your cup of warm cider down while you look at a pot.  I'm really looking forward to starting up this fall tradition again!  Hope to see you there!

Now back to work!

Mama Grizzly from the wood-fire.

Mama Grizzly from the wood-fire.

Wood-fired fox.

Wood-fired fox.

Autumn thoughts and Open House by Teresa Wooden

New work you will find at my first annual Holiday Open House

New work you will find at my first annual Holiday Open House

New work for Open House

New work for Open House

The leaves are just beginning to turn here in Michigan.  Some trees are surrendering early...branches already turning bare with a litter of brown scattered at their feet.  Some are stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the weakening of Summer and are as deep green as they ever were.  But here and there, just on the fringes, the embers of Fall are coming to life...and soon the woods will be on fire with color.

Autumn is my favorite season, by far.  I'm not certain if it's the artist in me that is drawn to the color and the drama of the season, or the farmer in me that looks forward to the bounty of the harvest, but there is some deep connection to the season that has always bound my heart.  Maybe it's about going home...geese flying, birds migrating, bears seeking their dens.  It's a time for gathering... of crops, of flocks, of people and families who stoke the fire and stir the pot and tell the old stories so the young ones will know.  Whatever it may mean to each of us, there is a bittersweetness to the last great fling of Summer before the big sleep of Winter settles in.

Here in my new home in Michigan, I've been missing one of my Fall traditions for the last two years.  When we lived in Wisconsin I began a holiday open house at my studio which I always held on the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The very first year I tried it, there was a snowstorm and only a few brave souls ventured out to see my little garage workshop behind our home.  The second and third years, the word got around and a few more people came by.  The fourth and fifth years, I joined a small local art tour happening the same weekend and the crowd grew again.  By the sixth year, we had wall-to-wall visitors, the street was lined with cars, and it had become a "tradition" for many of our customers.  I hung evergreen boughs throughout the studio, had warm cider and cookies, and pots were piled on every shelf like a bountiful harvest.  It was my "gathering"...customers became friends and even family over the years.  I truly miss them.

So it's time to do that again.  I'll be having my very first holiday open house here at the studio on November 18th and 19th, from 10:00 to 5:00 each day.  I'm joining forces with friend and awesome potter, Mike Taylor, who lives just a few miles away and will be open as well.  We'll have tons of work for you to shop for gifts for the holidays, or that perfect serving piece for your Thanksgiving table!  It's a new venture, and I'm hopeful that it will see the same growth as before, but time will tell.  Ya' gotta' start somewhere.

So I'm making new and exciting things in the studio in preparation, and I hope you'll join us for warm cider, cookies, evergreen boughs and warm hearts.  Come find something for your home...from mine.  Let's gather.

Fairy Magic by Teresa Wooden

Following a sheep trail through the Fairy Hills, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Following a sheep trail through the Fairy Hills, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

I've just returned from the Fairy Realm.  At least, that's how it seems.   We went on a bucket-list trip to Scotland at the end of June.  Scotland is a land drenched in history and natural beauty, and the green hills, forest paths and friendly people have found a place in my heart and in my dreams.

The best part of the trip, however, was spending two days on the Isle of Skye, on the western coast of Scotland.  Here we hiked through the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen.  Imagine walking into the world of Lord of the Rings, complete with magical places like "Fairy Glens", "Fairy Pools", and "Fairy Hills".  All of these were hiking destinations, through hills and plateaus so green that they seemed to glow with other-worldly energy.  Waterfalls, mountain streams, vast expanses of open plains and mountainsides...It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Each time I've visited abroad, I've returned with ideas and pictures in my mind that find their way into my work.  When we went to Italy, my pot shapes and sgraffito designs were influenced by the ancient Etruscan ceramics I studied there.  When we returned from Ireland, the sprials and runes of the prehistoric solstice tombs (especially the Newgrange tomb) became part of my carving vocabulary.

I am waiting to see how Scotland will settle into my creative thought process.  There were sheep everywhere scattered across the landscape like snowflakes on the hills.  I raised sheep once, and love them...I know I will be sketching/painting/carving them in the near future.  The vegetation was all ferns and foxgloves, lupines and birch/spruce forests...already I have begun to carve foxgloves and ferns into the story jars which I made and wrapped tightly before I left.  We stayed in a stone cottage built in the early 1800's, a former farm dwelling on the banks of Loch Ness; perhaps I'll start adding some houses and human characters to my designs.  Although we didn't see "Nessie", I can imagine how she looks.  Even she may show up on a post-Scotland pot.  One never knows.

For now I'm still basking in the glow of a magical spell, surely cast upon me by a fairy in the Glen...to leave a piece of my heart in a faraway land with the waterfalls and the red deer.

The Old Man of Storr,  a naturally occurring standing rock formation on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Ferns and Foxgloves, Isle of Skye.

Energy and Orioles by Teresa Wooden

The boxing hare from last month's post came through the woodfire and watched over the Open Studio crowd.

The boxing hare from last month's post came through the woodfire and watched over the Open Studio crowd.

In the garden on the roof.

In the garden on the roof.

View from the roof garden overlooking the studio and pond during the Studio Tour.

View from the roof garden overlooking the studio and pond during the Studio Tour.

The beginning of June finds me in an exhausted heap after the completion of our first annual open studio here in Michigan.  In early February, a small group of artists connected and decided to work together to create a new art tour, the Artz and Gardenz Studio Tour, here in the tourist area of Saugatuck, Holland and closely surrounding area.  I'm happy to report that it was a huge success!  We were blown away by the turnout on a perfectly beautiful Mothers' Day weekend!  My studio was open here, as well as our garden on the roof of our underground home.  We also had neighbors, Kay and Lee VerSchure selling their beautiful garden plants and herbs just outside the studio entrance.  People wandered all over the yard and gardens, bought lots of pottery, and picked up some early garden plants as well.  If the attendance this year was the baseline for the development of the tour, then I think it might become something big in the coming years;  provided that it doesn't pour rain during the weekend, of course...that would kind of kill the garden wandering aspect.  But I am thankful, joyful and excited to see where it leads.

Next thing up is my return to the world of art fairs.  I've had trouble getting much work produced following the art tour.  It seemed to sap my energy.  But I do have some new work and some more in progress, so this weekend we will head out to Kalamazoo, MI.  Bob has been busy revamping my display, and I am scrubbing down the tent walls and canopy today and hanging them to dry.  Lots to do...pricing and packing pottery, collecting all the lighting/display/packaging supplies, triple-checking the double-checked checklist so I won't forget anything.  Going to an art fair is like camping for the weekend, but your tent has to look like a living room.  It's tough work, but I am looking forward to meeting lots of new patrons and fellow artists.

Here at the studio the days are finally sunny and breezy and the gardens are blooming.  The windows are open so that I can hear all the birdsong from the surrounding woods.  Just last week I found an oriole's nest, a silver-grey silken basket, hanging just outside the entrance to the studio.  I'm gonna' take that as a good omen.  It's going to be a great year.

All the best.  


Flame, Ash, and Expectations by Teresa Wooden

As I write this, the rain is pouring down on the metal roof of my studio and there is a chill in the air.  We managed to plant a few trees yesterday in the drizzle, but it leaves me wondering what happened to spring...I swear it was here.  But hey, at least it's not snowing...I'll take it.

Friend and potter Mike Taylor fired his wood kiln ("Seraphina") this weekend, and I was lucky enough to get a few animal sculptures and some saki cups into the firing.  The photo here shows them drying on my kiln before taking them over to Mike's to glaze and load.

Every potter needs to fire a wood kiln at least once if they get the chance.  There is such a primal connection to the fire, the smoke, and the ancient process...raw clay from the earth being bathed in flames and ash.  Stoking the fire and watching it so carefully, around the clock for two days or more, coaxing the temperature to rise just enough, not too slow, not too fast.  Standing in the warmth from the kiln when the frost is forming on the grass, watching the sun go down (or watching it come up); hot cup of coffee, quiet conversations, stories told, laughter.  Anxiously waiting...watching...tending...encouraging.  Helping this great smoking beast as if it is in labor, it's belly full of the ideas and creations of many hands.  Unblocking the door a week later after a long cooling rest, anxious for the first sight of the offspring of the fire.  Carrying them out so carefully, presenting them to waiting eyes, cradling them in eager hands and studying each mark, spot and splash.

Seems such a fitting way to begin the month of May, when we celebrate motherhood.  Mike's kiln opening is open to the public on Saturday, May 6th (www.westmichiganclay.com).  Come see how these little hares, birds and the fox turn out!  Assuming Seraphina and the fates are kind, they'll be available in the studio here during the Artz and Gardenz Studio Tour on Mothers' Day Weekend, May 13th and 14th.

Maybe Spring will even decide to come back home by then!  Cheers to all.  

Standing in the Wind by Teresa Wooden


March has come in like a lion and the wind is gusting so hard outside that it makes the studio windows rattle.  I walked in the woods with the dogs today, and nearly ducked back inside.  If I stood in just the right spot, though, I could feel the sunshine and hear Spring whispering in the tree branches..."Not long now...".

Author William Arthur Ward once said, "The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, and the realist adjusts the sails."  As I spent the last few weeks researching and applying to art fairs I've tried to decide if I'm a pessimist or an optimist.  Artists aren't doing so well at art fairs anymore...the economy has everyone tightening their purse strings and art can be seen as a luxury item.  But there is always the hope that if you pack all your work into a trailer, drive a few hours or days, dump it all out in a ten by ten spot and stand around in all kinds of weather for two or three days...someone is going to fall in love with it and buy it.

As a realist, I decided to not to put all my eggs in one basket, and have been putting my energy into getting a new local art fair started for this spring.  From a small idea that I shared with a few new friends, the concept has caught on and we now have a small band of local artists who are working to organize and execute the new "Artz and Gardenz Art Tour" in the Holland, Saugatuck/Douglas and Hamilton area of Michigan on May 13th and 14th (Mothers' Day weekend).  I have to admit that I had no idea how much time and effort it would take to pull all the elements together, but it seems to be taking shape now and I am so excited to see it happen!  Six studios and a lavender farm will be open so that people can see both the artists' workspaces and also their personal gardens and outer spaces.  We will even have some professional growers offering garden and nursery plants to get a jump on spring.  I just completed work on the tour website, and you can find it at www.artzandgardenz.com .  

Since gardening is the theme, I've been working on some planters and garden items for the open studio.  I came up with some very organic looking planters that might work well as bonsai pots.  They are made of slabs that I cut from the pile of clay on my work table.  I think they're pretty funky.  I like 'em.  Maybe succulent planters?  You'll have to come to the open house to see how they turn out.