Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sculpting a life

By Susan Gallacher-Turner
Today, reading Jennifer Louden's blog about living a hand-crafted life got me thinking. What would that be? What would it look like and feel like? Would I have to move to the country and live without electricity and a toilet? Eat bugs and boil leaves for my veggies? Ok, I'm being a bit silly here, I know.

But Walt Whitman, I'm not. I like to be warm, eat my own home cooked meatballs and pasta, watch TV, crochet, read magazines and yes, sometimes, shop. Ok, that's out of the bag, then...but it occurs to me, that maybe I live a more hand-crafted life than I think.

I do grow some of my own veggies, tomatoes, zucchini, chard, lettuce, beets(if they actually grow this year) and peppers. I grow basil and make my own pesto which I freeze in little cubes so I can use it throughout the year. I even, yes by god I do, grow my own catnip and lemon verbena which I make into a soothing nighttime tea. Believe me, it's wonderful on restless nights.

And, since I am an artist working with my hands in clay and metal and paint, and a writer working with my hands on the keys, I guess I am living a hand-crafted life.

But I know that I forget that almost every day, as I answer emails and worry about class sign ups, marketing and gallery shows. What I see instead are the never ending post-a-notes and to-do lists.

Yesterday, I was in that mindset, again and feeling frustrated. I decided to close my computer and clean my house. Can cleaning a toilet with my own hands, be hand-crafting a life? Yes. Two hours later, not only did I have clean towels, I had a clean mind. It was then, I found my hands back to crafting in clay. Funny, it wasn’t on my to-do list, but yet, it got done.

Maybe that's the key to a hand-crafted life, doing what needs to be done-yes-but also doing what calls to be done. Doing it with care, with precision, with knowledge, with determination and with heart and soul. And taking the time you need to get it done, and at the same time, spend time being alive in the world. Smelling the lilacs. Admiring the tulips. Walking my dog. Leaning on my tree and soaking up the sun. And listening to the whispers of desire that call to me.

Jennifer asked this question: "How about you? What tulips will you stare at? What hunger, what hand-crafted stirring, is beckoning to you?"

This is my answer. What's yours? I'd love to hear your comments, visit my other blog, Sculpting A Life. And if you're interested in my other sculpture work, you can visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. Read more!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gardeners Are Returning to Local Nurseries

A significant number of gardeners are returning to their local garden centers to purchase their plants after having deserted them in favor of the mass merchandise home stores, according to the Garden Writers of America early spring survey completed in March. Apparently the honeymoon is over. Garden centers’ and local retail stores’ market share rebounded from a low of 39% in 2006 to a predicted 54% in 2010. The statistics for home stores are a mirror image, dropping to 37% in 2010 from a high of 52% in 2006.

Unfortunately the temporary desertion, coupled with the national economic meltdown, was just too much for some of the best growers and retailers with the most intriguing selection of plants. To add insult to injury, last year many consumer gardens were infected by late blight, spread far and wide by a wholesaler who knowingly shipped affected tomato plants to the big box stores.

There is enough material here for decades of discussion on economic and market theories, survival of the fittest, etc., but it is we the gardeners who are the losers in the battle. When specialty growers bite the dust, the single remaining source of a particular plant can disappear overnight. I enjoy the new introductions as much as anyone and I appreciate the efforts that commercial growers make to increase color selection, disease resistance, etc. But I also enjoy being able to find the old-fashioned favorites from my childhood, as well as native plants.

Our local garden center is in a state of transition and, in the interim, I ran over to one of the home stores to try to find some white pansies. While I loitered in the garden area waiting for Dan to emerge from the hardware section, I did a little experiment. I stood around among the plants, not doing anything in particular. I soon had shoppers asking me for gardening advice, hardiness information, and the location of various plants.

Answers to your gardening questions are what you get at a local garden center that you don’t get in the big box store. Frankly, I think that’s worth a few pennies more.
Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: or contact me at
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

Happy Hour Seasonette

By Kathy Carpenter

You’re probably asking yourself what the heck is a seasonette? I’m using this to mean an entire season that spans the whole season to complete a single story..
Last year they did Harper’s Island a take on Ten Little Indians. Where each week different characters were killed off and another part of the mystery unfolded. At the end of eight or ten weeks the story was finished.

I guess that worked out well because we are about to embark on a new seasonette. Happy Hour. Another mystery type story. If you enjoyed Harper’s Island you will probably enjoy Happy Hour.

I kind of like this new format. Let me know what you think. How do feel about seasonettes? Can you think of something better to call them?
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Sculpting A Life - Making Masks

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

I love to make masks. I don't know why, I just do. And in spite of some of my art teachers who told me that making masks was 'craft' and not 'fine art', I've followed my own heart in my art and I keep making them. I've made masks out of paper, clay, copper, plaster, and aluminum mesh. I've made masks for costumes, indoor art and garden art. I've even made a mask for a centerpiece in a copper oak leaf wreath. I’ve worked with adults, elementary, middle school students and teachers making masks for plays and as art pieces. I’ve seen the transformative power of masks for the maker and wearer alike.

Masks are magic. Making them, becomes a journey for me into the world of story and myth. I've researched the symbolism of animals in different cultures, mythical beasts, cultural folktales. I've learned that masks have been created and used by people from all over the world for almost as long as man has been on the earth. They've been used for healing, spiritual ceremonies, story telling, dramatic performances, entertainment and holidays.

The Latin word for ‘mask’ is ‘persona’. And, indeed, wearing a mask does change our person in many ways. It changes the shape of our face, concealing us. It changes our attitude or emotions. It changes our character or role. Wearing a mask, you can become a different ‘persona’. You can become a playful pup, fierce lioness, mythical dragon or powerful thunderbird. You can become anything you desire or detest. You can conquer your fears. Touch wonder. Feel your wisdom. And embrace your freedom.

To me masks are powerful and life changing pieces of art. And no matter what happens in my life, I am going to continue to follow my heart and make them. For the month of April, I get to share my love of mask making with other mask makers and mask art lovers atDoll Gardner Gallery. This group show features some of my favorite mask makers.

If you'd like to see more of my masks and sculpture, please visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and to read about my creative process you can visit my blog Sculpting a Life.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sculpting a Life: A mudlucious walk in the park.

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Squish. Slurp. The ground is seeping with water, the earth is thick and rich and sticky. On my path today through the mudlucious woods, I walk carefully. Even the little ups and downs on the path are tricky. I slip and slide.

After a few days of sunshine and warm temperatures, it's back to our normal spring in the Pacific Northwest...rain, wind and more rain. The lake is filled to the brim and even the geese and ducks are trying to dry out on the grassy banks. The paved pathways are covered with worms swimming from one puddle to the next. It's a robin's feast day.

Crossing the bridges over the lake, I look over the railing and watch the water rushing underneath me. I'm glad to be safely above it. I notice that the ducks and geese that normally hang out on this end of the lake, are also safely perched on the island today.

The puddles are everywhere. Jilly walks calmly through them, while I do my little hop, skip and jump as I try to puddle jump and keep my feet dry. Why? I can always dry off at home and, happily, I realize that it's only a few minutes walk away. So instead of avoiding the puddles, I start to really look at them. The shapes, the colors of the water and mud. But I see more than that, as I look down at the puddle, I see trees, new leaves and the sky. I wonder, at this new view, like a special rainy day portal. As I look down, I see what's above me. I wonder, then, about all the time I spend looking down at my feet and how much I must miss in the rest of the time and space above me.

As an artist and writer, I work at sculpting a life filled with passion, joy and creativity. If you'd like to see some of my sculptures, visit my website at and you can read more about my creative life at my blog, Sculpting A Life at
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Garden Views: Gardening as Therapy

Restorative gardens, such as the one at NYU Medical Center may be soothing or stimulating, energizing, engaging, and produce a sense of peace, tranquility, or solace, all qualities that can help heal the spirit, as well as the bodies of hospital patients.

In the 1980s, Dr. Roger Ulrich a Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University and a faculty fellow of the Center for Health Systems & Design published his findings on the effects of hospital window views on recovery from surgery. Among other achievements, his research was the first to scientifically document the stress reducing and health–related benefits for hospital patients of viewing nature.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, a restorative garden “employs the restorative value of nature to provide an environment conducive to mental repose, stress-reduction, emotional recovery, and the enhancement of mental and physical energy. The design of a restorative garden focuses on the psychological, physical, and social needs of the users.”

Isn’t that what we want for our own garden spaces? As you move outdoors to work in the garden this spring, start thinking beyond the typical design issues and begin to focus on how you can integrate some horticultural therapy techniques to create your own restorative garden. Is it the use of fragrant herbs such as lavender, mint, or lemon verbena to change your mood? Or do you prefer building wildlife habitat in order to reconnect with the natural environment? Do you crave a visually calm enclosed space to meditate and practice yoga? Or would you rather experience the visual stimulation of colorful flowers and garden art?

To read the AHTA’s Position Paper, which describes the various types of therapeutic gardens, the history of horticultural therapy, physical, psychological, and social benefits, and an extensive reference list, click this link: 

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: or contact me at Read more!