[ Native American ]

From the Heart

I loved working at the wheel – I mean I really loved it. Creating forms that would then be carved with my favorite totems & petroglyphs – sheer joy for me.

But then, my hands started to ache. I researched hand exercises & started doing them every morning, but it just got worse. One day, as I was throwing 2 dozen mugs for a gallery, I had shooting pains in my hands & began to cry. Then I realized, something had to change. I couldn’t do this any more. 

I had no idea that my creative life would have to change forever. Or even more shockingly, just how much it would change.

Doctors said it was chronic tendinitis & I went through physical therapy with no improvement. I tried a number of treatments to no avail – no improvement could be expected unless I was willing to stop completely. So I had a think session, walking around the studio, beginning the awful conversation with myself about letting go of clay or…maybe I could just let go of the wheel.

Living Life Boldly totem stick
Living Life Boldly

I wasn’t willing to give up clay completely, so I set about trying to design something that would allow me to work with flat slabs of clay and continue the carving I so loved. And TaDa! Totem Sticks were born! That was in 2016 and by mid-2022 I’d created (and sold) just under 300. I can’t make them fast enough these days but I have to take lots of breaks to rest my hands. I am profoundly grateful for the muse who guided me to create these sticks. I love making them – and my clients love having them in their homes.

Turtle Shield painting
“Turtle Shield”, 18 x 24 x .75″

In 2020 the world shut down, galleries closed & shows were cancelled. I had a good inventory of totem sticks on hand so I decided it was a good time to explore another medium that might be less stressful for my hands.

Let me just say, I’ve never painted before, but I decided to try it. Thank goodness for YouTube and online classes. I must have spent a fortune on classes, learning every technique, and buying EVERY art supply available. During the pandemic, I continued to go to the studio every day – but now I was painting and learning and painting some more. And you know what? After a while, my hands almost stopped hurting. By the end of the shut down, my hands had healed a good bit and I had a few paintings I liked.

These days, my time is split between totem sticks, tiles, and painting. The carving still hurts my hands but I take lots of breaks to paint. My style is coming through in my paintings now and I’m incorporating totems in my designs. Hopefully, I’ll never have to make the decision give up clay completely. That would be a very bad day.

Love Waits painting
“Love Waits”, acrylic inks on 8 x 10″ paper, mounted on 11 x 14″ cradled birch panel


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  1. I love your vision, your totem sticks are wonderful and I’m looking forward to the paintings you create. Thank you for the beauty you brought to this world and I pray you can continue ❤️

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