Thoughts for my new series are still roiling and boiling in my brain.

The ideas come from many places and times. Some as long ago as I can remember, and others as recently as today. Some was inspired by seeing how another assemblage artist organized his materials. “THIS should be your art!” I exclaimed. He was not amused.

But it got me thinking.

All of this is based on my favorite activity, which I refer to by its ancient designation, “hunter-gathering”.

I’ve always loved picking up pretty pebbles, twisted twigs, sea shells, bits of rusted metal. This actually translates in a beautiful (and sometimes devastating) way to shopping. I love poking through piles of stuff, looking for the perfect little something everyone else has overlooked.

Last month I found a huge box of shells at a local antique shop. It was marked way, way down. But still a little pricey at almost $60. I won’t say I had buyer’s remorse when I got home, but “What was I thinking?!” was flying around my head. (It’s not buyer’s remorse if you’re still secretly glad you bought it….)

So here’s where the shells have gone. Here:

Big, big jar of big, big shells. Found the perfect jar at T.J. Maxx for under $15, in the perfect shade of sea glass blue.

And here:

A smaller jar o’ shells.

And here:

Note how they are sorted by color, texture, size and other significant characteristics. Like one slot holds “stones with spots”!

Now the last pic is especially telling. Because when I go to the beach, I come home with this:

Box o’ beach rocks.

And they quickly get displayed like this:

Do you see a pattern here?

Which got me doing this a few years ago:

People absolutely fell in love with my many trays of handmade artifacts at my last open studio!

So in my head are images of artifacts, collections, gatherings of objects, museum display, shrines and altars. Add to that a shaman’s gathering of healing herbs, objects of power, talismans of hope, magic stones and mysterious bones.

I don’t know exactly what it is. I have only vague ideas of what it looks like. Sometimes it frightens me. Sometimes I wish I could drop everything else to work on it. Sometimes it seems too much like play to take seriously.

There is only one thing I’m sure of:

Something wonderful is coming!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. I am one of your kindred spirits Luann. My collecting and correlating took me to the next step of putting the type drawers into flat stock drawers. Each shallow drawer owns a color. Makes my bead/stone collecting in the studio go fast! Plus when my customers come in…the first thing I ask them is what color do they like…then I pull out the drawer of their passion….and the oohs and awes are sooo fun! I have billions of trinkets from vintage to beach to trade show finds. After years of collecting and then making my art I can now get into the zone of creating within a minute of entering my studio. The flat stock drawers have made me an artist that looks organized….rather than a horder. Love your work….both your sculpture and your writing…..you have some wonderful gifts and I am very grateful that you share in such a loving way. Cheers from Texas!


  2. These last two magnificent posts (how Not To Be Professional was a gem!) prompt me to declare my status as a “Long time Luann Lurker”. Like Julie (what a wonderful comment!) I love your writing, your art, your readiness to be open and vulnerable, and the gentle wisdom that it yields. There is a frank candour about your writing that is refreshing and inspiring. And your art, Luann…an absolute joy. I am sounding a tad sycophantic but there you go. Thanks for making the time to do it and to write about it. You may like, if you have not already seen it, the work of South African artist, Robyn Gordon who carves wooden totems and sculptures. I think she may share some of your hunter gatherer desires and also produces profoundly beautiful work. Here is a link to her blog Art Propelled. http://artpropelled.blogspot.com.au/ and to a post about a beautiful sculptured piece: http://artpropelled.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/the-story-of-african-quilt.html
    Thanks, and greetings from Australia, Wendy


    1. Oh, my gosh, you’ve made me an internationally-read author! Thank you Wendy. :^) Actually, I’m delightfully overwhelmed by your words, AND you’ve pointed me to Robyn Gordon’s astonishing work. And she in turn pointed me to the poetry of William Stafford (YOU, READING THIS, BE READY) which took my breath away. And Wendy, it was exactly what was needed today to bring my day to a beautiful, inspirational close. Thank you, thank you!


  3. You guys are all so inspiring! This post really spoke to me, as my studio has caches that look similar to yours.So glad to know that there are other folks who feel the same way about rocks and shells and etc.etc. I am just about to put my toe into the water of being serious about finishing and selling my art/artifacts/jewelry, so it felt like a sign I was going in the right direction! Also sent me back to one of my favorite books: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/08/24/how-to-be-an-explorer-of-the-world-keri-smith/


  4. Just to confirm you are an internationally read author to many 🙂 (I’m from NZ) and have followed you for a couple of years. But have never commented, but this article just shows your work so beautifully and I needed to comment. And agree, Something wonderful is coming! I’ll enjoy following your journey and take encouragement for mine. thank you


  5. I have strange wee bags of mystery fibers, and odd fiber tools that also make me ask myself, “what was I thinking?” when I attempt (ha!) to clean up the studio. Just found some llama wool that I bought at the National Western Stock Show over 15+ years ago! I totally get the hunter-gatherer thing…


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