Clay Work

Clay Work

Playing in the Mud

Clay work by Brenna Busse

We are the children of the clay who have been released so that the earth may dance in the light. - John O'Donohue

When my daughter, Antara was small – she loved springtime mostly for the mud. She was happy in her waterproof boots, splashing in puddles and making mud pies. These days, in the studio, working with clay, I have become that happy little girl. playing in the mud!

In my continuing exploration of clay – I am struck by its flexibility and responsiveness.

As it warms and forms in my hand, it has a kind of tenderness. As I am playing with scale, and focusing on heads, upper body – I have experienced a tenacity in the clay. Sometimes as I begin a piece with an idea in mind, the clay seems to take its own form, as if by its own knowledge, alive in its own becoming!

In the Rootabaga Stories, Carl Sandburg created the magical sky blue whispering cats, who disappear when you hold them up to the sky. They perch on your shoulder and whisper in your ear, and their whispering sounds like the wind. They tell you: "You are beautiful. You are strong".
Sky blue whispering cats
clay, paint, ink, 10 X 7"

Sky blue whispering cats ·
clay, paint, ink 10X 9"

Art is the Mirror

March 29, 2017

Art is the mirror, perhaps the only one, in which we can see our true collective face. We must honor its sacred function. We must let art help us. -Alice Walker

These words support and inspire me, as I reflect on my own creative process, how my art is seen in the world, how it touches others..How can I let art help me?

I believe to create art --to write to sing to make -- expresses our true voice. It is a political as well as personal act. Art connects us, reminds us of our shared humanity, can open our hearts. I find literal "grounding" in the touch of clay, and constant amazement in the form it takes in my hands.

As I wonder about the state of our culture and politics at this pivotal moment in time, my feelings range from deep fear at the prospect of the erosion of so much of the "common good" that I value,. to the hope in possibility that I see in the gathering energy of change. So many of us are coming together in committed resistance, this in turn builds connection and community. It is not surprising to me then, that after years of making solitary figures, I made a series of small figures gathered together (3" high, see above) After years of making whole body figures, I am creating pieces that focus in, come up close and show just heads or torsos. They are listening deep, with open hearts. They are still wall hung --there will be more coming -- as this new work unfolds. Let me know what you think! How does art help you?

Looking for Light

troncones sunset

Light defines both time and space – time is the movement of light - David Frawley

A big part of art camp in Mexico this year was watching the light. Staying in our casa close to the ocean's roaring pulse, pre-dawn light would awaken us. We walked the beach to meet the sun. In the gentle morning light, I would search the beach for ocean gifts brought by the night tide (and the garbage too). The morning, and some hours before sunset, book ends to the blazing heat, were my creative beach times.

My challenge for art making again this time is to use the materials that I find in this environment. I first found three tall coconut palm fronds, balanced them in a tripod, secured them with strong beach vine -- and it immediately became a shelter -- a sacred place. It became the place where many beach treasures were placed, by our group and by strangers as well. The driftwood figures that I made became sentinels, the rock cairns surrounding it became my balance practice

This is the place we had our fires -- for my daughter Antara's creative beach cooking, for bamboo flute making, for gathering the women in red, for burning away our fears in the ritual of letting go. Here, or on rocks close by, we ended our day celebrating with drink and song -- a grateful farewell to the setting sun,. Each evening different, always a stunning light show, punctuated by the synchronized flight grace of dozens of brown pelicans.

Thank you to Antara, Marcie, Maggie, Margo for making this creative time so magical!

Creating Into the Unknown


Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity!

Every day is filled with the unknown -- with our schedules and expectations, we build a sureness so that we don't have to think about it, until there is a crisis or some huge change -- like now. How do we keep from falling into fear and despair when the uncertainty seems to loom so large?

As I have been transforming and re-framing these fears, I realize that as an artist creating and making a living in this culture, I have had a lot of practice dealing with the unknown.

The creative process itself is made of unknowns -- which is wonderful and terrifying! From this lump of clay, or pile of fabric: Where do I begin? What will emerge? Will I get close to my vision? Will I love this?

Taking my work out into the world is also filled with uncertainty: Will I get into the coveted show? Will that thunderstorm destroy my art, booth, close the show, or miss us? Will anyone see what I am doing? Will anyone love my art enough to take it home? Will I continue to live the life I love?

I made this series at an art workshop in Grand Marais this October. I wasn't sure how I would finish these bodies, or who they would become. I found driftwood(!) on the pebbled shore of vast Lake Superior, and those weather honed pieces became the limbs and formed the gestures. In the feedback from the class, I understood meaning, and found their name.

The tradition of the sacred clown is one who speaks truth to power. How we find our truth and respond is important as we step into this unknown. May we be creative, alert, fierce and nimble!

Sacred Clown: owner of simple truth · Series of three: clay, paint, driftwood · 34X 18 X 2" approximately

Sacred clown series: detail

In Gratitude

Cloth on figurine by Brenna Busse

I have started a daily gratitude practice. Re-inspired by Tom Glasser's book, Full Heart Living -- sometimes it's the first thing I do when I open my eyes in the morning. Lately it has become a kind of ritual, to sit with my cup of tea and, as my mother used to say, "Count my blessings." Especially now, when all feels like chaos and unknown, I sustain a kind of balance to the fear and anxiety that is pervasive. And it's true, I see differently my world -- and it looks more like a gift. Today I am grateful for all of you who have loved this work I do, welcomed me into your communities, encouraged and supported me in this "handmade" life that I love!

Going Inward – and Out!

autumn leaves by Brenna Busse

Uncertainty and the unknown are the raw materials for the artist. - Mary Oliver

It is a fall tradition that I must make time for. In these lingering, balmy autumn days, I opened the windows of my dear South Minneapolis home -- and washed them! I know that I will be spending more time inside, looking out, during the winter -- and I want that clarity. I feel the shift to darkness too, that calls me in, to go deep, to seek silence. And then there is the ringing of the holiday bells -- beckoning me to make wonderful gifts, take part in all of the possibilities, jump into the fray. And so I begin this dance of balance -- this tightrope of opposites. As I sit here now, with this glorious October of color and change, having had many hours in the studio immersed in making, and so happy with the figures who have danced into creation -- I am ready for the flurry of November.

All of the pieces above are from the ongoing Messenger/Message series. Earth clay, acrylic paint, linden sticks, misc. approx 25 X 10 X 2".

October 29, 2016


painting by Brenna Busse

Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

For the past 10 years or so, I have spent these glorious, change of season weekends of September in Milwaukee, Rockford, and Peoria.

We artists come to town like a gypsy caravan (or circus!). Like many cities across the country, you welcome us with open hearts (thank you!).

It is amazing to see familiar faces year after year, in the volunteers and collectors. We share stories of personal and local happenings and I get feedback about my work, and many pieces find new homes.

It is gratifying to meet new viewers, curious and generous. Year after year we meet, and every time is different.

September 29, 2016

This sky where we live
is no place to loose your wings
so love/love/love -Hafiz

Short and Sweet

show the way of heart closeup by Brenna Busse

Dancing in the creative flow!

Hi All –just wanted to check in and let you know I have been blissfully immersed in clay! Here are some of the pieces that I have been making – and will be bringing to the shows coming up in September. The pure sensuality and flexibility of the clay continues to enthrall me. Bringing the fire to transform these pieces to strong forms feels like magic. Adding color to the surface texture with acrylic paint is like frosting on the cake! Hope you like them as much as I enjoy making them! - blessings, Brenna

All of the pieces above are from the ongoing Messenger/Message series. Earth clay, acrylic paint, linden sticks, misc. approx 25 X 10 X 2".

August 29, 2016

Full Circle

marigolds photo by Brenna Busse

July 29, 2016

…artists are finally the only people who know the truth about us. -James Baldwin

I started this monthly communique to you, a year ago, today -- on my birthday! This gift to myself, an honoring of the 29th each month through the year is an enjoyable and necessary pause for me -- to reflect on my life and art, and communicate some aspect of that. I have heard from many of you in response, that you have enjoyed these short monthly connections as well. So here's to another year, a month at a time, one foot in front of the other...