Oh the Pollybilities
How on earth did you come up with such an adorably quirky form of "green" art?
It started with the teacups. I love thrift shops and junk stores, the dirtier the better. So I kept running across little abandoned teacups. I wanted something to do with them. I like the feeders you see where the cups are on a pole, but they seem so static. There is no life in them. When I hung them instead of skewering them, they were affected by the world around them. They blew in the breeze. It gave them life. Inevitably if you are looking for cups, you run across pots and I often found myself with teasets since they were sold that way. I had the drill and I had the bits for some reason (I think I had bought a set of various sizes just to see what I could do). It was a matter of looking at the shelf one day, seeing the two things together and saying, "A-HA!"
Space and funding. I could make a thousand birdhouses and never get bored, but where would I put them? Then, too, how would I fund my unending need to buy more and make more? If I go too many days without being creative I start to shrivel. So, this way I can sell some and have the funds to continue to make more. Everybody wins.
Do you have any training in the arts?
Not a bit, isn't that sad and a little crazy? I often find myself surrounded, now, by what I would consider "artists" and think on the one hand, how did I get here and on the other, I hope they don't find me out. I don't know much about the arts at all, I just know what I like. I used to tell my mother (who has boundless creativity) that I thought the creativity had skipped a generation. Then someone introduced me to knitting, then crochet. The woman who taught me the crochet said the most important words I ever heard: "Start with the pattern and then just do what you want." What a way to create. What a way to live. It let me break my mold and here I am.
Boiled down to just a few words, what's your philosophy of art and aesthetics in general? What makes something beautiful--or at least cute?
Good question, tough answer. Truth be told, I don't think I can say. I think it's different for each of us. For me, it is something that makes me feel an emotion or experience a place or thing. When I look at the houses and birdbaths, I think of the birds, I picture the trees. It can be a good emotion or even a sad one, but beauty makes me feel.
How often do you make new teapot birdhouses?
A lot of it depends on the weather. It's wet work and my studio is best lit by natural light, so it's cold work. I like to do it in the middle of the day when the temperatures warm up. I buy new pots and jars when the other sell, so if I have some and the weather is nice, I love to go out and do it.
Describe your creation process. How do you come up with new ideas and then how do you make your birdhouses?
Again, it's all about the the thrift store. On certain days I can wander around in them for hours. On bad day, I get a pot and go. But on those really rare days, I just ponder what I see. I might really love a particular pot or bowl that just won't work for a birdhouse or bath. So, I find something else for it to become. I have a birdbath (full size) made from a pasta bowl that had great colors. I am working on a piggy bank made out of a coke bottle because for some reason I can't stop wanting to see one filled with pennies. It just happens to me and I ponder it for hours and then days and then I have to make it work. Stay tuned for that bank. I haven't quite got it, but I am really close.
I make most of my stuff with glass tools. I used to dabble in stained and fused glass. I was never as good as other people and that's why I gave it up. I wanted that level of end product but I just couldn't pull it off, so I accepted that ceramic repurposing was where my strength lies. I took a drill press and rigged it with a pond pump and some tube so there is constantly water on the bit and I went to town. I drilled just about everything I could get my hands on. The press helps a lot. I used to break a lot of pieces, now I don't. But at the start of the season I have some adjustment time where I have to relearn how not to put too much pressure and break whatever I am drilling. It is much more delicate work that you would think. I still sometimes break something and inevitably it is a piece I really love, but I try to believe that piece just wasn't meant to be.
What's your studio like? How does it inspire you?
My studio is a mess, but that's kind of how I like it. We converted our shed a few years back for my work because it is wet and messy. I have tried cleaning and organizing it a thousand times. I see other people's studios and think, Wow, I would love that, but I wouldn't. The mess is what inspires me. The pure chaos of it sends my mind where it doesn't belong. I get distracted by this or that and the next thing you know I have a new creation (thus the birdhouse). Who else would have even had a useless teapot and glass drill bits on the same shelf? If I hadn't I might not have made the first house.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Only this: I really do believe that starting with the pattern is best, but throw it out in life and creativity if you can. There is something amazing about the creation of something from nothing, whether that nothing is one man's trash, a ball of yarn, whatever. It is freeing to make something. It's like that "Sesame Street" song that says, "Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song." Just create. Who cares if it sells or if anyone else ever sees it? Just create something and know that you can. Sorry for the "Sesame Street" reference but I have kids and we don't go a day without some Street in it.