beth bundy designs

Springtime in Portland.

Beth BundyComment

When most people think about spring in the Portland, they think of the flowers blooming and the nearing end of a cloudy winter.  Rainbows often arch over the rivers, mountains and bridges because the rain has yet to leave but the sun starts to peak out.  Late March hosts spring break for all students across the state of Oregon, so families are seen exploring various locales across the Pacific Northwest.  I love this time of year.  I look forward to the return of light and long summer days tending to the garden and sipping lemonade on my front porch. 

This year I am trying to stay optimistic as I look forward to warm days ahead while consumed with my current life question.  What will my job look like next fall?  In my experience as an art teacher in Portland Public Schools, jobs are constantly changing, administrators leave, classrooms are taken away, or schools decide they would rather have music.  So art teachers are left scrambling and teachers who are friends battle it out in interviews to find a happier place.  

While on my career development leave (also known as a sabbatical) I have been teaching online part-time and writing curriculum.  My leave will soon be over and I need to decide what's next.  When I left my job, I was working with 4th-8th grade students part time.  The school has changed a lot since then.  It has new administrators, is a middle school only, and my job is now full time.  When I began this blog a year and a half ago to document my journey into the unknown territory of my own art career, I did not know where it would lead.  Teaching was still a huge part of my life but I wanted to test the waters in the art world, learning new materials and immersing myself in the expansive art and design culture here in Portland.  Exploring what it truly feels like to be an "artist."  On the horizon was always my return to the brick and mortar classroom. 

The past year and a half has been rich in so many ways, career wise.  Not only have I spent time making a series of work, writing this blog and teaching online, I have also been offered opportunities and time to explore my many interests.  One of those focuses has been on researching the experience of the online art teacher.  At the National Art Education Association convention in Seattle last month, I co-presented a session called "Can Art be Taught in a Virtual Environment?"  My colleague from Georgia, Wendy, and I spent months interviewing and surveying other virtual art teachers about their experiences and gathering information about commonalities in our jobs.  I also co-led a second session with my STEAM friend, Kristin, that challenged participants to think about the similarities between the engineering process, design thinking process and how those relate to the Artist Studio Habits of Mind.  And at the same time, I currently score student teacher visual arts work samples for EdTPA, facilitate design thinking workshops, write curriculum for design education, illustrate artwork and a kid's book, meet makers and designers, attend maker and design events, show my artwork, and am piloting a design challenge project that introduces industry professionals into 8th grade math classrooms.  It is clear that I am not bored!

This week, I interviewed for two high school positions and found myself literally laughing as I flailed my arms above my head demonstrating what my current career looks like.  I had spent hours prepping, thinking about the valuable sessions from NAEA, my time in many classrooms at various levels and my teaching philosophies.   Trying to explain that in a twenty minute interview, when the teachers and principals have district required questions, made it difficult.  I realize my gesture was not the best way to impress the interview committee but I felt scattered because of my many interests.  All I wanted to do was explain what is at the heart of my teaching and it just came out in a big ball of tangled knots.  So, my Friday was spent rethinking my approach, examining my answers and soul searching.

After an exhausting week, I picked up book that has been waiting on my bedside table called Body of Work by Pamela Slim.  It starts by asking What do you want to create?, Who do you want to help? and thenWhat drives you?  The goal is to find the common thread in your life to figure out "the rest of your journey."  I was too tired to delve in but these questions must have been ingrained in my awareness. When my young son asked for an early morning snuggle, my mind began to spin.

What do you want to create?
Who do you want to help?
What drives you?

In all of those experiences that I have put my energy towards during this "vacation" from the classroom, what binds them together?  Even while writing that list of ten or so explorations, I have mixed feelings about my expansive energy output.  Why am I doing this to myself?  Which one of these is where I am supposed to concentrate? Whoa, that's a lot of work!  I'm not qualified to do that!  I often find myself explaining to friends that are curious to know what I have been doing with my time that I like variety because I am embarrassed by my curious dabbling. But this morning as I lay awake with my son dreaming next to me, I was thinking about that linkage.  Maybe as I continue to process I will come out of the fog and realize that all of these experiences have something in common.

So, today, when I think about my interviews, I am examining them from this angle.  What did I say in that elevator pitch of my current career?  Maybe I did get some good points across and maybe next time I will be more concise because I'll have discovered the commonalities.  Instead of waving my hands above my head the whole time I can eventually bring them together at my heart to share with them how all of these experiences have brought me to now. 

Maybe the answers will spring up with the flowers or return with the sun.  After all, spring is my favorite time of year.

Art Shows.

Beth Bundy

The past 6 months have been busy.  Family life is full of joys and struggles watching my stepdaughters grow their wings and my preschool little boy become a child with expansive curiosities.  Breaking my arm in September did not stop me from my regular walks, online teaching and household tasks, although it did slow me down a bit in art making.  Fortunately, I have stocked up piles of inventory that are hard to miss when walking through the narrow aisle of boxes that have taken over my studio and office space (much to my husband's dismay).  


Knowing that I had enough artwork framed,  I decided to keep my goal of showing my art locally and sought out venues.  New Seasons, Arbor Lodge, has been a welcoming neighbor when teaching at Ockley Green School.  They opened their walls for student artwork and even hosted a benefit art show in 2016 for artists and art teachers to sell their work in support of an art teacher friend.  When I reached out to my contacts there about having a solo art show, Allison happily agreed to have my art up for a month.  It is a small space in the dining area with brown and orange walls, so not the prettiest gallery space but it gets a lot of traffic.  Luckily I hung the show on September 1, just days before I had my fall and needed surgery on my forearm.  I was hesitant to advertise this show too much but did have a few friends text me saying "I just saw your art up at New Seasons!" 

Then I received an email in November from a sweet little cafe, Miss Zumstein,  just a few blocks from where I live.  I spoke with Anja last year and she was now planning art shows for 2018.  So I jumped at the chance to cover her white walls with some brightly colored paper cuts for the month of January.  The opening celebration was held on a Saturday afternoon and the room was filled with warmth and smiles from many friends and neighbors. 

It was a joy to share my series of work from the past year and a half with my local community!

Playing with food (photography).

Beth Bundy

For my stepdaughter's graduation present, I made for her a recipe book with some of her favorite foods and family recipes.  One of the things I wanted to add were photographs of the food I was including along with family photos of everyone enjoying food.  I realized the challenge of taking photos of food.  

There is a lot that goes into taking a simple photo of your favorite dinner; setting, lighting, background distractions, styling, color schemes.  I have been learning more about visual storytelling and food photography.   I watched a class called Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Inspiring Visual Stories by Marte Marie Forsberg to learn a bit about food photography.  She makes it look easy.  I was inspired to try.

When I was growing up, we always had some kind of baked good.  If you ask my friends from high school, they would agree.  On any given day, the island of our kitchen would have some kind of treat waiting.  At first, my mother was the instigator but as my sugar addiction became more grand, I felt the need to feed.  My mom's poundcake recipe, rice krispy treats and chocolate chip cookies were on the top of the list.  Even after I went off to college, my high school friends and I would reunite and spend late December nights in the kitchen listening to carols and decorating cookies for Santa.

This summer, we took a trip out to my favorite blueberry farm on Sauvie's Island,  The Croft Farm.  It is a small farm that has the perfect size field of blueberries and a beautiful barn.  So, after filling three large bowls with blueberries, I cleaned them and readied them for the pie and set off on a food photography exploration.  

As you can see, not all photos were successful.  I played around with background, composition, lighting, and props.  The photographs improved as time went on.  It was a fun experiment in the summer time light.  The payoff of fresh blueberry pie was not bad either.  I have found something that combines some of my favorite things; baking, photography and eating sweets!


Special Places: Open Studio

Beth BundyComment

It has been 4 years since I have stepped foot in Ketchum, Idaho.  I was with my husband, 4 month old son, and tween step daughters then.  We were invited to stay in the home of Frank and Susan Ward so that I could teach summer clay camp for two weeks while my stepdaughters swam in the pool and became to understand how Sun Valley got it's name.  Since then, 5 people that were important in my time here have passed away.  One former roommate and friend, two who had beautiful voices and spirits that captured the community theater stage, and one who taught me about early morning coffee and baking.   And then there is Susan.  She introduced me to the joys of teaching ceramics and I returned to the valley this time not to share time with her but with a heavy heart.  I was there to celebrate her life with family and friends at Boulder Mountain Clayworks.  

"Do you want to teach the after school kid's classes?"  Susan asked.  I remember the first time I spoke with Susan.  It was the year 2001 and I was using the old, tan phone attached to the wall in my parents' bay house kitchen.  We had just celebrated the holidays and I was about to make the solo drive from Alabama to Idaho, moving to a place I had never even visited with my boyfriend who loved cross country skiing.  Even though I was full or trepidation, I remember the feeling after I spoke with Susan of knowing that everything was going to be okay in my new home.  

When I pulled into Ketchum,  I parked in the middle of town and put on my Banana Republic, knee-length, black, wool coat.  There was fresh snow already piled high next to the parking spaces, recently plowed.  It was February and this Alabama girl felt like she was in a dream land.  I floated around town with hope.  When I stepped into the studio for the first time, I remember feeling that same hope and sense of home.  It was instant.  And every time I entered the "open studio" door since I have felt that same world of belonging.  

"This is what Susan wanted."  Susan's husband, Frank stated as he addressed the 100+ people who gathered to celebrate her life last Sunday.  "She wanted people to come to this place that she created with love to celebrate community and share stories.  She didn't want us to be sad." I saw people that I had not seen for 10 years and we hugged each other knowing that we were happy to see each other but also sad under the circumstances, trying to stay strong for Frank and the rest of Susan's family.  This place, Boulder Mountain Clayworks, had brought so many of us together.  For me, I became an adult here in my mid-twenties and stayed for 4 years full time.  But when I left to go to grad school in 2006 I couldn't seem to really let it go.  In the summers, I returned to teach summer clay camps.  Susan was always there, beyond the open studio door, to greet me with a smile and support and even offered me a free place to stay each summer with my growing family.

As I think about this space that has been so special to me, I contemplate my attempt to create special places.  I realize that in my classroom I want students to walk into a community where they feel a sense of belonging and know that they are always welcome to return.  Maybe one day I will honor Susan's spirit and create a place inspired by Boulder Mountain Clayworks, with an "open studio" sign attached to the door. 

Boulder Mountain Clayworks door with open studio.JPG

Is it really the end of June?

Beth BundyComment

I am finishing up my grant cycle from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.  I have one last (on-location) photo shoot scheduled and my artwork is standing by, ready to be framed and sold in my online shop.  The grant cycle is the end of June so I need to be done with all of the work by then.  Where has the time gone?  

For the photo shoot, I decided to use my house to stage my artwork.  It has been a great excuse to get a few things for my son's room and my bedroom that I have been wanting for 5 years since we moved into our current home!  I finally found some great old matching twin bed's to go on either side of Stuart's window and I will frame several of the airplane, sailboat, and train designs to mount above each bed.  His response was amazing when he saw his new artwork.  "You mean I get to have ALL of those in MY room?!"  For my bedroom, I scored a beautiful solid wood birch countertop from the clearance section at IKEA to use as a headboard!  The varnish is drying as we speak.  Above the headboard will be a triptych of three different flower favorites, framed in these pretty linen frames from Pottery Barn.  

Planning the location of the headboard and frames by measuring and posting paper up on the wall.  Just a glimpse of what my bedroom will look like.  

Planning the location of the headboard and frames by measuring and posting paper up on the wall.  Just a glimpse of what my bedroom will look like.  

As for the online shop, it is still a work in progress.  I decided that I will choose the frames that I think the artwork looks best in so that I can showcase them in the shop and have them ready to ship pronto.  I have a lot of squares that need frames. Now I just need to find the time to frame them!  

I am also wrapping up the grading for my online Digital Photography class so be on the lookout for a beginning of July shop opening event.  Summer is here!  Now, if the sun would just come out.