In the zone

 |  August 5, 2012

Around the time of my last post I had a day in the studio where I spent a lot of time staring and sighing. Which, I know, is a good thing to go through. It means that I am facing a challenge, some sort of lesson that will push my work forward. But that doesn’t mean it feels good or that I’m gleeful for the challenge.

It might have even been that very same night that I picked up the book Everyday Sacred: A Woman’s Journey Homewritten by Sue Bender and started reading her essays. When I first started posting my bowl series earlier this year, a Facebook friend recommended that I pick up this book. And I’m so glad I did- it gave me my painting mojo back! Friday evening came, I put the kids to bed, warmed up my palette, and seriously got into a zone. Several hours later, I had completed four bowl paintings.

from left to right: Needs and Wants, Sacred Vessel
Just Enough, More of Less

To see each painting larger, please click on the titles under the image, as they will take you to the painting by itself. I am actually going to list my paintings for sale as I go along with this series. I plan to make a lot, perhaps a la Judy Wise who is creating 100 paintings of abstract exploration. Well, 100 may be a bit ambitious for me as I have so many things competing for my attention when I’m in the studio. But I would like to make at least 20. Yeah, 20, that seems like a good number.

When I work on my bowls I get into this serious meditative phase while I’m painting. It’s hard to describe. The best way is to just say that it is a continuous conversation with myself. Bowls just have so much meaning for me. I started working with bowls as a metaphor when I was preparing for my first solo show “Expectations” back in 2007. It wasn’t something that I really delved into at the time, but looking back at my work, I can see the roots there.

But I can go even further back to high school where I spent so many, many hours in the ceramic studio, throwing bowl, after bowl, after bowl on the wheel. I loved being on the wheel. The whole act of centering the clay. Knowing, even then, that if I wasn’t centered, there was no way I would get that lump of earth centered on the wheel. When I went to college, I found my way to the student center’s pottery studio to throw more bowls and mugs to get that creative release amidst all my science classes (what was I thinking?!?). And later when I started teaching and doing speech and language services to a very demanding and stressful population in the Chicago public schools, I found my way to Lill Street, when it was just a pottery studio on Lill Ave. And I threw more more bowls, mugs, and even added plates to my repertoire.

That I May Receive
April 2012

I can go on and on about what my bowls are about. But I will just leave it at this- that Raymond Carver poem that sparked my first bowl painting back in January 2011

…My bowl is empty. But it’s my bowl, you see,
and I love it.

My Bowl is Full
January 2012


  1. by Amanda on August 5, 2012  11:07 pm Reply

    Keep bringing them. They are so very satisfying.

    • by bridgette on August 5, 2012  11:08 pm Reply

      Thanks Amanda, I'll do my best!

    • by Roberta on August 6, 2012  10:42 am Reply

      I love your bowl series. Any time you can paint the same thing over and over and never get tired of it is a good thing.

  2. by Carole on August 6, 2012  1:16 am Reply

    Sue Bender's book was a life save for me years ago when I was feeling burnt out and ready to quit! Have you read her others?
    Your bowls are beautiful and I thoroughly enjoy visiting you blog to see them.

    • by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:41 pm Reply

      I haven't read her other books, but I am really interested in reading the one about Amish quilts. I have a thing for quilts and often think about my paintings as piecing things together like a quilt. Thank you so much Carole.

  3. by Kesha Bruce on August 6, 2012  3:06 am Reply

    Oh how I sympathize with all the "staring and sighing". I was right there with you all of last week.
    Bravo for finding your bowl mojo!

    • by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:41 pm Reply

      Thanks Kesha- it's good to know that we're not alone with staring and sighing. Yeah for painting mojo!

  4. by Susana Tavares on August 6, 2012  5:05 am Reply

    Love your bowls, with so much meaning.

  5. by Jennifer on August 6, 2012  6:49 am Reply

    More please! I love your bowls. There's a simpleness, a soulfulness, a....well, they have that magical something that draws me in and makes me not want to leave. Make sense?

    Your work also reminds me very much of Dorothy Caldwell's work. She's an amazing fiber artist - quilt artist really - whose work usually involves the lake near her house. The lake often looks like a bowl...right side up or inverted. If you don't know her work, take a look if you have time.

    • by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:45 pm Reply Jennifer. Thank you for that link! I wish I could see her work in person I just love fiber art so much.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, I really appreciate it!

  6. by Deb on August 6, 2012  8:38 am Reply

    these are very compelling. I know about the zone and the self conversations- it's not the chatty voice in your head, it's the more distant, harder to hear one that usually only speaks in monosyllables.

    • by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:46 pm Reply

      yes! Sometimes grunts and hums too.


      Thank you Deb.

  7. by William Cook on August 6, 2012  11:59 am Reply

    Thank you for this post. I needed that poem a lot. These panels speak with such spiritual authority. Has to be the result of all those science classes. Best.

    • by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:47 pm Reply

      Glad you liked the poem William. The first time I read that poem, it seriously hit me in the gut. It was great.

      Thank you so much.

  8. by bridgette on August 6, 2012  9:46 pm Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. by Lisa Graham Art on August 7, 2012  12:18 pm Reply

    I love your bowls...the texture and colors are exactly how I wish I could create my own pieces. They are soothing to look at.

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:20 am Reply

      Thanks Lisa, I appreciate the feedback

  10. by JoyfulArt on August 9, 2012  12:28 pm Reply

    That I May Receive is fabulous. Actually, they all are, but that is my favorite. Is it available, what size is it and what is the price?

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:21 am Reply

      Thanks Sue! It is available, 8x8 inches, $240 if you're still interested. You know where to reach me!

  11. by Seth on August 12, 2012  8:42 pm Reply

    The symbols that we are drawn to and always come back to are so fascinated. Your bowl series is too. I look forward to seeing how your 20 (+) pieces evolve.

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:23 am Reply

      Thanks Seth- yes, for me it's been trees since I was a little girl. Birds, which Im done with now. Vessels- current obsession. Quilts, thread, stitching together. One of the images that I have been drawn to since I was young that I haven't touched upon is that of Madonna and child. hmmmmmmmm

  12. by Sharmon Davidson on August 12, 2012  10:27 pm Reply

    What an amazing poem, to inspire such amazing work; I'm really loving this bowl series. 100 does seem like an awful lot, but I think 20 is a good number for a series, as it makes enough pieces for a solo show. (not that I have many- the potential is there if you have enough, though).

    When I was working on my Master's, one of our first assignments was to make 50 pieces in one weekend. I thought it was ridiculously impossible, but doing this assignment changed my art and my life forever. For whatever it's worth.

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:26 am Reply

      Yeah, I don't think doing 100 would be a healthy thing for me to! I may lose it with the bowl. But I agree, it is a powerful exercise and process to go through. Sounds like your experience was worth a lot!
      I had a ceramics teacher do that with us as well when I was in high school. We had to make a dozen or so bowls, show them to her and then cut them in half with a wire. ahhh! It was a great lesson though.

  13. by Gina Sismilich on August 13, 2012  9:09 am Reply

    Encaustic paintings just lend themselves to simple shapes. I love the bowls - the paintings are lovely and also very serene.

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:26 am Reply

      Thank you so much Gina.

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