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Mel and I at Sheldon's point

Mel and I at Sheldon’s point. 

The weather is drawing us outside. We saw lots of vitality in the plants and stones at Sheldon’s point. There’s something of winter in every pleasure of summer. We must impress in gray clay the green life surrounding us in July, so January does not claim our hearts.

The mosquitoes were ravenous though.

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So: It’s been a while.

The volume and type of work I do requires a restive period (only recently do I observe this restive period). To my body I extend an ever deepening empathy.

Please note that I am taking a breather from regular production work to focus on teaching.

My facebook page has information about the classes I teach in my studio and will have more info about outdoor Intuitive sculpture sessions

For information about the classes I teach at the Saint John Arts Centre, got to: http://www.saintjohnartscentre.com/workshops-2/pottery-classes/pottery-on-the-wheel/

For a one on one session with me at my studio: it is $45 for one hour (we use the wheel. You make one thing and paint it). For a two hour session it is $65 (you can make two things on the wheel and paint both, or make one thing on the wheel, sculpt one thing and paint both).

ok!

About half way through the La Meridiana paperclay workshop in Certaldo, the farm on which I’d secured a WWOOFing position cancelled, because they had enough people for the work available. This is not really supposed to happen, so I was a little panicked. There were now ten unplanned days in my trip, until I was due to be in Carrara. Virginia gave me her extra ticket to Pisa because her boyfriend drove down from Luxembourg. I didn’t really need to go to Pisa, but it’s surprising how many people consider it a major destination in Tuscany. You can do Pisa in a day, two days if you want to checkout the seaside and the churches, three if you go to each lingerie shop.

The leaning tower of Pisa and a sweet , cherubic fountain

The leaning tower of Pisa and a sweet , cherubic fountain

Orta Botanica, the oldest Botanical Garden in the world

A little panorama of the oldest botanical garden in the world. Not pictured, but reveared: huge cacti collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Hostel, I met two consecutive (unacquainted) Brazilians. Rachel’s doing her MBA in Greece and Brazil – majoring in the economics of the calcium bicarbonate trade, and Mila’s studying Social Economics in Hamburg. Mila and I toured around the city taking pictures and eating gelato. At the (world’s oldest) botanical garden she showed me some of her uber-sweet vaulting techniques, and we visited the sea side.

Wandering Pisa, I emailed the WWoofing place directly, and asked for pro-tips to secure a proximate farm and fast. It worked! They gave me a heads up on a place called Casa Voltole – a few hours South by train, in Magione. After calling Annie and establishing a connection, I hopped the earliest train and arrived in Umbria with relief and a touch of anxiety, since I didn’t know these farmers and…well that’s reason enough.

Annie met me in Magione and we went to the grocery store. I found pickled peppercorns, and some wine from Magione for like 2 Euros. Also a section for Peet Food. At the Villa I met Ranaan, Annie’s husband and their cats: Brownie and Acheroo.

At Casa Voltole, figs ripen in a rotation, so there’s always a few ready, and the plum tree sheds by the hour. Giant snails all over the place. I gave them a raku snail, made in Certaldo, to be a blessing on their home. They had several beautiful versions of Hamsa – a hand with an eye in it.

View from my window at Casa Voltole

View from my window at Casa Voltole

Edge of the front of Casa Voltole

Edge of the front of Casa Voltole

 

 

 

 

 

On the first full day, I woke up early and jogged the road to pick blackberries for Annie – she didn’t have time to gather them and I wanted to share them for breakfast. I saw an outrageous yellow and black zebra stripped spider and smile-ran home. All the fruit in Italy is sweeter, like it’s already been in jam and then come back to the vine. The Tuscan sun is no laughing matter; I was squinting at searingly beautiful panoramas through the biggest sunglasses my face could support, slathered in 50 spf and I still returned with olive skin, frosted hair, but not sweetened.

Capture the lizard

Capture the lizard

Their neighbour wanted to widen his right of way adjacent to the backyard vegetable garden so we were left with a big pile of rich soil to move. The threat of rain made it look heavier so we shovelled for a couple hours moved whole pile. During this unexpected and cheerful hard labour, ice broke and they knew I would work for them until I fell over, gladly.

Rosemary bushes are perennial in Italy and A&R used olive and oak leaves to mulch the soil around the plates, which were staggered with Cypress – lining the steep drive up to their villa. A type of viney weed infests the soil with an enviable flexibility and endurance. There was no name given to this plant.

I made a salad with pickled peppercorns and Ranaan lined them up along the edge of his plate because I put in waaaaay too many (I Love Them). I didn’t put the hand salted capers in, this time. Also, Annie showed me how she makes pickled lemons, plum jam – but not the plum cake!

Annie and Ranaan

Annie and Ranaan

Annie keeps her brined lemons on the counter in a wire-hinged glass jar. Annie and Ranaan’s tiled  Umbrian Villa is always warmer than my wooden Atlantic Canadian apartment. The Israeli method is to quarter and thinly slice lemons then add them -plus some salt- to a mature batch by pushing firm yellow triangles under the murky, squintingly pungent potion of juice and salt. As a slanted exchange, I showed Annie and Ranaan how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I picture them returning from a strenuous harvest in the olive copse, enjoying cheese toasts as they ping pong Hebrew, laughing.

They introduced me to the olive grove I got some instruction from Ranaan, then he handed over the telescopic saw and the tiny hand saw. I brought my own water bottle, gloves, and music. I immediately spoke to the trees, looking for some connection to the place the needs of the tree’s harvest.

Olive Copse at Casa Voltole

Olive Copse at Casa Voltole

All those hot days I wore denim pants and work boots, thwarting all manner of spikey thing. Asparagus stalks, Really Tall Milk Thistle, Blackberry vines, and the threat of snakes. They also said there was a wolf, wild boars. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, but prickles? Galore.

“Make it cup shaped” Ranaan told me, “like it’s overflowing”.

Pruning the most beautiful trees on Earth

Pruning the most beautiful trees on Earth

Day three I tell Ranaan I talk to the trees and he says that’s what Luigi does. I only saw Luigi once, but it doesn’t count because we passed him in a car and we could not stop – Acheroo got a bladder infection and needed veterinary assistance immediately. Luigi is an expert at Olive trees, and he, “did not say my pruning was bad”.

So, by the fifth tree, I was madly in love. These trees are bonsaied to be easily harvested. The trunks are very wide, and while the main branches are few they’re several arms thick with hundreds of minor – non fruitful “suckers” to be cut. The goal is to provide the tree with maximum light and energy for the fruit. I put a piece of the mug Cara and I made together in the tree so it will always be there. One misty afternoon I saw a faint, fleeting, prayed-for rainbow, while listening to Wonderful Rainbow by Lightning Bolt. I cried. Times like that have become more frequent in my life: crying from being so grateful and so sad.

My Favourite Olive tree

My Favourite Olive tree

I had my own little suite with a bathroom. Thick sturdy walls of stone and earth held me and tight, heavy windows with groaning large shutters. I felt very safe and sound in the hills of Umbria. Every morning, a herd of goats and sheep tear down the hill and swarm the blocked area around the villa while the Shepard talks on this cell non-stop. I noticed because he had to yell a bit over the cacophonous twinkle of 65 bells on 65 hoofed beasts. He didn’t notice when the herding dogs came over the rickety crick fence to Annie and Ranaan’s plum tree and ate them from the ground – a minor offence, but still.

They speak Hebrew to one another, so I always knew when they were talking to me. Imagine too that they’re retirees from the Isreali IT sector, so: google chrome in Hebrew while I prune their olive grove blaring house music. We talked about movies we’d seen, but never watched one together. They showed me how to transplant plants, with root hormone, soil and a 2L plastic bottle – cut in half.

Wild Thyme (Sicilian thyme)

Wild Thyme (Sicilian thyme)

The smell of Italy is Wild Sicilian Thyme. Marking every place I visited with mini, purple, mighty flavours and flowers. Considered a weed by some, but it’s the gift of oregano (the purple tasting kind), plus chamomile, rosemary and – I think – savoury. Uuugh, it’s complicated, fresh and perfect.

We went on a day trip too, and we still email one another. They harvested over a tonne of olives from the little orchard they manage. I think it’s only 15 trees. When I left for Carrara we were all a little teary because we truly enjoyed the work and life we shared.

I had wild thyme in my hair, two suit cases and a lot to write. Four hours later I was two Steves  at the train station in Carrara. The next morning I found the marble I was looking for as a part of Steve Shaheen’s Tuscany Study program. Next on the blog: Carrara Marble: Mediterranean: meet the Mountains, Mountains: meet Michaelangelo.

All Roads

All Roads

TED Blog

peytonrobertson_BlogHeaderWhen 12-year-old Peyton Robertson sees a problem, he is going to fix it. So when the young scientist noticed a perennial problem in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida –flooding during the region’s nasty hurricane season – he set to work building a better sandbag.

Peyton’s sandbag contains an expandable polymer that’s lightweight and easy to transport when dry, but that becomes a dense solution to hold bags firmly in place when it’s wet. He also added a dash of salt – an addition that makes the solution in the bags heavier than approaching seawater. And to eliminate the gaps between sandbags that tend to let some water through, he designed an interlocking fastener system that holds the bags in place as the polymer expands. As the bags dry after the storm, they return to their original state so they can be reused.

The ingenious sandbag (and Peyton’s “commanding delivery…

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This September, armed with the help of the a travel grant from the New Brunswick Arts Board, I took a raku paperclay workshop at La Meridiana. I met lots of new people – and cats and one dog – but my mission was to get to know paperclay. Lorri Acott uses paperclay on metal armatures in order to achieve otherwise impossibly thin legs in her figurative sculptures.  This principal of impossible thinness is what attracted me to her work initially, but the works` emotive gestures fully engaged me.  Our work was raku fired, since the metal is meant only for lower temperatures.

Understanding armatures

Understanding armatures

Lorri explaining the paperclay plus armatures equation

Lorri explaining the paperclay plus armatures equation

Since 1981 La Meridiana –  a ceramics school in Certaldo, the heart of Tuscany –  facilitates clay workshops available to and taught by people from around the world.  The facility is very fine, including several types of kilns and a broad range of specialized tools, including a complete spectrum of glaze materials. Did I mention that they also cook for us? Lunch was always a fresh new dish (this is self indulgent, but I’m a very picky eater and Italy both cured it and made it worse – I know, right?).

The view from the dinner windows

The view from the dinner windows

Initial stages of some of my figures

Initial stages of some of my figures

Anyway. One defining quality of paperclay  is that it’s not picky about water content when it comes to attaching to itself.  One can attach a new bit of wet paperclay to bone dry pieces without a hitch. Clay without cellulose added will not attach to another piece of the same clay that’s not at a similar dryness – science,  I guess.  The tricky part comes with the finishing work: when carving into paper clay the surface becomes fuzzy, hard to smooth or add tiny details.   To help with the thermal shock of Raku, our batch of clay also contains molochite – a fine porcelain grog.  Our pieces were removed from a 1186 degrees Celsius kiln and placed on a bed of sawdust. Why? The glazes are still molten and the clay is ultra porous at that stage so, placing the pieces in a combustible material extracts the oxygen from the glazes and also injects the clay with smoke. It’s a bit magical and dangerous.

Raku bed of fire

Raku bed of fire

Here is a video of the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lODDsePmbbA&feature=youtu.be

Gattina, raku fired paperclay with armature inserts

Gattina, raku fired paperclay with armature inserts

Gattina is one of my pieces to be featured in the group show: ‘Foundation’, an exhibit opening on November 8th at the City Gallery of the Saint John Arts Centre. Foundation includes work by the six interns of the Saint John Sculpture Symposium 2012.

Next blog: Magione and Casa Voltole with some bonus shots from Pisa.

This September I left my studio and home for the month to learn about sculpting, farming , and living in Italy. I’m an introvert , so please try not to imagine sweaty palms and wide eyes as I depart native soil and land in parts unknown – all in the name of further education. The experience was neatly divided into three segments –  to be elaborately blogged about in the coming days, but let’s back it up and see how I got there.

While interning at the Saint John Sculpture Symposium in 2012 my interest in outdoor sculpture got foisted from the periphery to the center of my focus. I looked all over the world for a place I could learn stone carving as well as figurative clay sculpture. After English, Italian was the most shared language among the sculptors at the SJSS 2012, because it is the language of stone.  I decided to stay in Tuscany to study figurative paper clay sculpture with Lorri Acott at La Meridiana, then take a marble carving workshop with Stephen Shaheen at Corsanini Studio.  With the ten days between these workshops I bought a WWOOFing Italia membership and pruned olive trees at Casa Voltole.

I was awarded a Career Development grant from the NB Arts Board to support my study at La Meridiana, and I received a loan from the Saint John Community Loan Fund to participate in Tuscany Study with Stephen Shaheen. My family and friends have also been very supportive of this eduventure.

So, here’s how I’ll blog about the trip:

This is an introduction, next will be Certaldo (La Meridiana), then Magione (Casa Voltole), and finally Carrara (Tuscany Study).

 

Teaching enriches my knowledge of clay and hands as much as making my own work. I cheer people on as we have synchronized incremental epiphanies. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different now if in high school I’d chosen to go into cheerleading instead of drama. My voice is really loud, I love physical activity and team work, but I detest competition (and turnips).

Today a client said, “you’re so positive all the time!”  Having a naturally judgemental personality means that I have a ‘way-things-are-done’ and I don’t easily abide deviations – unless there is just cause.  My teaching technique includes very few rules, one of which is: we have only positive needs discussions about our (and others’) work, as opposed to making negative comments. For example, sometimes people say things like, “my painting is terrible”,  or “I’m not creative.”  Not only are these comments dead ends, they also have the insidious and infectious capacity to bring people down.  If someone says instead, “I wonder how I can improve this?”, or “Creativity is something I can really work on” that is a call to look for more options. The brain is open, the heart is hopeful; that’s the state in which we learn. When we deride ourselves (or others) it causes a part of us (and them) to shut down – it’s just an instinctual reaction to being attacked.  When we ask a question instead, it clears away the judgement and carves out a space for imagination.

Because I struggle with this constantly, I am so eager to relieve others of the burden. One’s inner dialogue is not subject to the same scrutiny as our spoken words, of course. We can say anything to ourselves inside our heads and it doesn’t have to make sense or even be true, since no one else can hear it. Changing that inner voice is a challenge I take very seriously by deep breathing, mindfulness, and exercise. But it’s hard work and on going until my life’s horizon I’m sure. I have a lot of room to improve here.

I ask my students to speak positively about their (and others’) work as well as their needs because I need to learn how to do that too.  I ask my students to be mindful of their posture at the wheel, because I need the same thing.  As my clients let me know what they need, I become more aware of what I need.  I think that’s the whole idea of hermeneutics, but I could be wrong.

We help each other up, we help eachother climb the mountain. I climbed Mount Katahdin this weekend and it taught me plenty like: I’m not afraid of heights after all, sharing the same pace with others is therapeutic, doing life threatening and physically challenging things scours my mind and rinses out my body, also I love my boots.

Here’s a link to the flicker feed of some photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/98615006@N04/

This one is my favourite:

Climbing together

Climbing together

It’s not unusual for me to have ambitions that are way over my head, and that’s okay as long as these ideas are tempered with the cooling waters of self doubt. I took it upon myself to turn off the tank valve and dismount my apartment’s emptied toilet, after I flushed the 1-1/2 inch cap to the kitchen sinks’ p-valve (which was at the bottom of a bucket of very discoloured liquid plumber infused water). I asked my neighbour to, “leave it to me to snake the sink, I’ll feel empowered by the experience.”  As I lifted the toilet off its mount, a pipe burst. Have you ever seen this happen? I hadn’t. If I were to turn both taps in my bathroom to full blast, that would not equal the volume and pressure this pipe was providing without a hint of relent. Do you know where the main water shut off valve is for your building? Find out right now, you’ll never regret knowing. After a number of tries I got a hold of my land lord (it’s important to note that I am especially hard on phones and just got one that’s waterproof, or this connection would have been impossible). She tried to explain where the the water shut off valve is in the always-creepy-now-with-water-gushing-through-the-low-ceiling-basement . I could not find it, because it was under some boards and half under the raised floor of a front room I’ve been in twice in two and a half years.

When she arrived and shut down the water I had unscrewed a hollow broom handle and was using my hand as a join to deflect the water off  a laundry soap jug opening, then into the toilet drain. My hands were numb for about two hours afterward. But she (who was to dinner with friends) and my downstairs neighbour (who was in St. Andrews picking out a puppy) helped to dry things up and repair the pipe. I guess it was fit to burst anyway. Making big mistakes and then fixing them (with the help of others) is a great way to remember what’s the big deal about life.

When I’m not working or trying to do my own plumbing, I garden and try to learn Italian.

Here’s my garden as of today: Mint, Garlic, a stone that looks like me if I were a stone, a ceramic tree. Not pictured: many other perennials, some pea sprouts, a moved shed (with a luxurious cement slab), and the rest of the Southend Community Garden, complete with new fencing (Thank you P.U.L.S.E)

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I’m about to try Michel Thomas’ methods of teaching Italian. He was a Master of Languages (check out this documentary on his methods). One of his ideas is: people do not forget things, they put things between the memory and their thoughts, but the memory is always there. His students praise his ability to grow a language in their brain without the use of homework or memorization. You can see they have a deep respect for him. I think he breaks down languages into consumable facts and presents them piece by piece coupled with questions that dredge out what the student knows and doesn’t, then he helps them know.

In the documentary, one student says, “Michel Thomas may not know what the truth is, but he can tell when he isn’t being given it.” People lie (even to themselves) to protect themselves or to protect others, either way, it’s a denial of learning what ever is the truth. Give people an environment where they can be comfortable and get out of their own way, then they will open their brain, learn. Thomas  created a formula to enact this circumstance.

That’s the earmark of a serious teacher. Get things out of the way of learning so the student can make the connections they need to understand. I think gardening is like that, and food, and being human….but maybe not home repair.

What is it when you think you know something, then you give it a try and discover that you have no idea what you are doing? I did the same thing with rice crispy squares. I felt I knew how to make them, but that was just a feeling.  I didn’t know and I made something that I could only feed to peckish adolescents. Knowing is not the same as remembering. One is a feeling and one is a fact. I now remember where the water shut off valve is, and what can happen if I try to do home repairs with only partial knowledge (I didn’t know, I felt like I knew). But anyway, I can’t remember Italian because I never knew. So, now it’s time to learn.

The title is extremely  provocative, clearly, and I confess to feeling baited, it’s even caused me to come out of my social media black out for a moment. First, read Bjorn Lomborg’s commentary “What I’d like to see this Earth Day is More Fracking” in the Globe and Mail, 2013, April 22nd. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/what-id-like-to-see-this-earth-day-more-fracking/article11449919/.

We can all admit that technologies worth their salt take time to research and they take investment to perpetuate this research. Currently, all the numbers on energy efficiency are stacked against solar, wind and tidal energy. Lomborg’s commentary brings this predicament into full sun.  But, of course these technologies are less efficient at this point; the infrastructure of this era has been built around and is totally reliant upon fossil fuels. What’s to say that this cannot (must) change? We came into this wealth of industry just 200 years ago.

It’s like talking about the cost of fossil fuel dependency to the environment is the elephant in the room. Under our current rubric, the resources of the planet are taken as quickly and (at best) efficiently as possible and sold (at best) to the  highest bidder. We are selling out our present at the cost of our future instead of investing in our future at the cost of the present.  I mean, yeah, the earth is going to give us the oil (for now) if we keep looking for it (the earth is our silent partner in all of this progress), but we should be smarter than that, considering the consequences of this dependency thus far.

Okay, let’s make  fracking and the use of fossil fuels more efficient. That should be among our top priorities, because they are not efficient enough to be  100% safe, and self sustaining. But guess what: they never will be. Fossil fuels will always require renewal (more mining, more refining). Lomborg rightfully sites the reduction of emissions as a positive shift, but what else is there to measure? How about the impact of fracking on fresh water supplies (just to start looking at the cost to the environment of this lower emission fossil fuel). Less emission is not enough. Investing solar and wind and tidal energy is what I consider realistic for our future. Yes, it takes a lot of energy and time and money now, and so what? The end result could be worth the wait. Imagine if New Brunswick spearheaded wind or tidal research (like we did with telecommunications) and came up with a design that revolutionized the way the whole world used energy. That can’t happen if we don’t put our resources in that direction.

Bringing up the false dichotomy of  either investing in alternative energy research like solar, wind and tidal, or sharpening up our fossil fuel extraction and refinement techniques makes me kittenish. It’s worse than on facebook when we are shown a picture of a fighter jet and it’s price versus the amount of money it takes to keep the CBC running (on par, coincidentally). People should not have to choose between domestic safety and free media. They are each essential for their own, separate reasons, and it cannot be said which is definitively more valuable than the other. Investing in fracking research versus solar energy research not like choosing one pair of shoes over another, it’s like choosing where you are going with those shoes.  Self sustaining energy is not a destination if we don’t invest in it. Our default setting is investing in fossil fuel efficiency for now; we are toeing the party line.

But really? My biggest problem with Lomborg’s article is this quote: “This Earth Day, we need a dose of realism about real environmental challenges – like the air and water pollution which make life so miserable for billions – and the real opportunities that exist for environmental innovation, to make our planet a better place”.  * Blush*. The use of  ‘realism’ and ‘real opportunities’, given the content of the article leading up to this statement, is a little brazen. First, which definition of realism could one possibly mean when giving a commentary on which energy sources they’d like to see our government invest in for the future? There is no objective, universal good to using fossil fuels, there is no consensus among the everyday man that fossil fuels are the best way, and finally, a description of today’s use and availability of  energy sources  cannot define what the future use should be realistically. But, the consequence of not investing in research and development of alternative energy sources is universally really bad. Right?

So let’s look at this pragmatically: instead of defining our future by what we don’t want: emissions, oil spills, ground water pollution, let’s look at what we want for the world’s great-great-great grandchildren:  clean water, sustainable energy, and hope (among other things that people may or may not agree upon).

Read at this article:

Chief Medical Officer of Health’s
Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas
Development in New Brunswick

http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/h-s/pdf/en/HealthyEnvironments/Recommendations_ShaleGasDevelopment.pdf

Do you feel reassured?

TLDR?

Why not ask the people YOU are paying to research fracking to make a their compelling data public. If there are realistic reasons why my government is not choosing to spearhead research into alternative energy resources, let’s hear it.

The Department of Health: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/contacts/dept_renderer.141.html

The Department of Environment: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/contacts/dept_renderer.139.html

The Department of Natural Resources: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/natural_resources/contacts/dept_renderer.604.html#contacts

I’ve been teaching a lot more than I have been producing, which is ok for now, but I really enjoy spending my days being physically present and silent with clay. I’ve talked with other teachers, mostly teachers of Yoga, who also say they do not get the same sense of personal progress within their practice while teaching. The book Quiet, by Susan Cain describes a state called Deliberate Practice. It’s my understanding that this is when we are in the flow, unaffected by the presence of others. Cain sites a study by Anders Ericsson* describing the differences in ability of a set of violinists at the Music Academy in West Berlin (pp. 80). They all practiced the same amount, but some were way better than the others. Why? Ericsson found the best group spent a greater proportion of their practice time alone. It is when we are alone doing our thing that we can most readily confront our own weaknesses and grow. At first I couldn’t see exactly why, because other people’s issues with the same trade/medium are instructive. But something about group thinking prevents some people from going fully into their flow (I call it ‘the zone’). It could be fear of judgment, could be overwhelming curiosity about others, and it could just be the distraction of the presence of another human.

Melinda Sheehan took this while helping with the kiln

Melinda Sheehan took this while helping with the kiln

Clay books by St. Mach's kids, prefiring.

Clay books by St. Mach’s kids, prefiring.

At the moment I am in three classes (one is French) at St. Malachy’s High School through March – with the ‘Artsmarts’ program – thanks to Cara Cole’s work and for inviting me to be a part of it. We’ve been teaching grade ten students how to embellish clay book covers with relief sculpture and ceramic stains. Their books will contain answers to reality therapy based journal questions such as: Show a time you felt free to be yourself; show a time you felt loved and respected; show a time you felt powerful and strong; show a time you had a lot of fun; and finally: which of these is most important to your future and why?

None of these topics is definitively more important than any other, so there’s such a variety of answers. When asked to show a time they felt free to be themselves, some kids listed friends they hang with, others described the awesomeness of being all alone.

I ask the same questions to the 5 and 8 years old kids in my Art with Alison class. The things that are fun when you’re 7 are a little different than when you’re 15 or when you’re 35. The openness with which people provide this information depends on their relationship to the person who presented the question and whether they have to share that information with others.  In every case, I consider sharing optional. I do not wish to know anything about people that they do not wish to tell me. The point of the exercise is to self reflect deliberately in a way that one can refer to at a later time.

Say you’re 15 and you’re bored. If you were to look back at the ‘show a time you had fun’ sheet I gave you when you were 7, you might see that you drew a picture of yourself building a snowman, then do something about it. Say you’re 35 and feeling confined by all the pressures of your life and family and don’t remember the last time you felt free. You could look back at your journal and be reminded of what made you feel free in the past, then make it work for your present.

*Anders Ericsson’s work is used as a launching point for  Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.