Results matching “Pottery”

#19 summer series 2019

For so many years I have been driven by the dream of travel. Here in Virginia immersed in my daily habits of walks, weeding and studio I try to see my local landscape with the eye of a traveler. I have trained my eye to see the color of the horizon or the distant mountain range as something that resonates with my pottery tablescapes or the daily path between house and studio. The color of travel has became an emotion for me. This year I have been lucky to visit Montana twice, Tasmania, and Maine and am about to imbibe North Carolina. The colors have shifted from the hue of where I might never go to the shades of where I have been and the textures of where I have worked  and the dreams of where I might return.

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"For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go."
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

#10 summer series 2019

When I was in Tasmania in April I joined my hosts at Ridgeline Pottery in their morning walk. They like to walk laps on a trail around their property. I didn't always do all the laps and sometimes I struck out on my own, crossing the street for different views, but the habit of walking allowed us to notice the sunrise, the patterns on the water in the distant lagoon, the color and texture of bark on the gum trees. The rhythm and alignment that grew out of our walks became part of my sense of place, the seeds of unconscious, invisible memories were planted through the habit of steps. Today in Virginia I walked at the end of the day--my home habit--and the verdant tones of my wet local landscape were a contrast with the soft grey greens of autumnal dry Tasmania. Exploring my memory of place and time through making pots  reminds me how giving myself to one place gives me back to myself, back to my Virginia steps and the nuances of my own materials and kiln.

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"Suddenly I came out of my thoughts to notice everything around me again-the catkins on the willows, the lapping of the water, the leafy patterns of the shadows across the path. And then myself, walking with the alignment that only comes after miles, the loose diagonal rhythm of arms swinging in synchronization with legs in a body that felt long and stretched out, almost as sinuous as a snake...when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

#5 summer series 2019

Having spent five weeks in Tasmania from the beginning of April to the first week of May I feel like my sense of the year is slightly turned around. When I returned it was so green here it almost hurt my eyes after the dry autumn landscape of Tasmania. But now I have made my peace with the northern hemisphere. I love how each evening seems impossibly long. As a child I defined the beginning of summer as the end of school and an escape from New York City. But as an adult my definitions of summer are always shifting responding to the heat, the garden, my pottery projects, and travel schemes. There are visual and physical landscape clues in the grass and the the angle of light, the weed growth and deep shadows. Today the textured hostas clearly spell June, a synonym for the beginning of summer.

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"Where in the year are we? We don't need to track the stars to know. Here in the northern hemisphere, each evening's longer light alerts us. Right now the year is skipping toward the opening of the heated season. Which, for some, begins tomorrow, June 1. Where you define the start of the summer depends on whether you align yourself with the meteorological calendar, which is used by climatologists and meteorologists, or the astronomical calendar. If you stand with the scientists, June 1 starts summer (and September 1 starts fall, December 1, winter, and March 1, spring). If you base your seasonal switches on the earth's tilt and changing relationship to the sun, the solstice opens the season, this year on June 21, when, in the northern hemisphere, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and light lasts longer than any day of the year."

From The Start of Summer in the Paris Review by Nina MacLaughlin, a writer and carpenter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

#17 decembrance 2018

Last night I was exhausted from the weeks of making pots, firings, and all the steps involved in our open house. I dreamt of events that were a mix of family weddings combined with a pottery sale. In my dream we had forgotten to light candles but I reminded my panicked friend that it was okay as my mother had sent boxes of candles from her grave--as if that was perfectly normal. We had floating candles in animal shapes along with fruit to embellish our fancy tables all interspersed with our woodfired pottery. I laughed at myself, reflecting that my mother's candles are still lighting my dreams almost fifteen years after her death. When we returned to the Maine cottage the summer after my mother died I felt as if I ran into her in the turn of my wrist. In certain sunlight my bones could not forget her habits of sweeping, writing postcards or taking naps.

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lost summer returns
in certain sunlight, her wrist
of fine hair glistens
--Greg Sellers, Haiku journal entry, 17 December 2018

#19 summer summit 2018

I can't celebrate a birthday without thinking about my mother and all the things she taught me. Today I sorted through a series of boxes of my pottery that she saved. I don't need to keep them any more but her attention and love of these objects taught me so many great, great lessons. Always have plenty of vases on hand for flowers for the table or for whomever else might need some color. Always fill a bowl with a peach and a vase with a flower. Always pause for a drawing, a photograph, or a poem.

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What I Learned From My Mother
By Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

#1 summer summit

The first of June has arrived. At this time -- on the cusp of summer -- I pivot to focus upon the lengthening hours of daylight leading up to the summit, the longest day of the year on the 21st. These images use my pottery and with allusions to use focus upon the natural world within which we are embedded.

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#4 decembrance 2017

It's exciting to come home and open our kiln to examine new work. We've been away saying hi to potter friends at Demarest in New Jersey and visiting Greenwich House Pottery in New York City where I made pots in high school. It is both humbling and inspiring to see new experiments by others. We've been talking shop, eating great food, seeing famous objects in museums along with famous people on the streets and in restaurants.

By Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,  
which knew it would inherit the earth  
before anybody said so.  

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds  
watching him from the birdhouse.  

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.  

The idea you carry close to your bosom  
is famous to your bosom.  

The boot is famous to the earth,  
more famous than the dress shoe,  
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it  
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.  

I want to be famous to shuffling men  
who smile while crossing streets,  
sticky children in grocery lines,  
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,  
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,  
but because it never forgot what it could do.

circular gifts

cup-of-the-day.jpgphoto by Margaret Buchanan

In September I organized an event in our studio to make cups for our daughter Zoë's wedding.  After sending out an invitation, ten potters graciously came to our studio on a Saturday afternoon to lend their hands. Based on a love for making things, these friends joined our celebration of love to make cups that were given away as gifts at the early October wedding held at our house.

cups-2.jpgphoto by The Commoneer

In preparation I arranged to borrow several additional potters wheels. First thing Saturday morning, I made a huge pot of sweet potato black bean soup. We got beer and seltzer and pulled together a giant salad. At one o'clock the first potter arrived with two wheels and we helped him carry them into the studio. Then a few more friends trickled in. By 1:30 we were sitting down, throwing cups. The non-potters helped by weighing out and preparing ¾ pound balls of clay. At 2 pm I gave up my wheel to a friend who desired a wheel that could reverse direction. As I guided the event I moved boards of cups outside to dry, showed newcomers what we were aiming for, and gave out aprons and towels as needed. My goal was 160 but I had fibbed and said the goal was 175. By 4:30 we had thrown 180 cups.

cup-making-1.jpgcup-making-2.jpgphotos by Margaret Buchanan

Mission accomplished, I went and got the beer and heated up the soup. People cleaned up, mopped the floor and migrated to the house. We served soup, salad, and bread, ogling the Victoria Sponge cake that Dan had made. We all perched on the porch, shifting spots as people got seconds or adjourned for dessert. It was a lovely, convivial evening of friends from Maryland, Virginia and even one Alaskan potter whom we had run into at the grocery store a few days earlier because she was in Warrenton visiting her mom.

cup-group.jpgphoto by Margaret Buchanan

The following day Warren, I and Margaret B. finished up the cups. Margaret spent her portion of the day stamping all the cups with the initials "Z & M" and impressing the wedding date," October 7, 2017." Warren prepared the clay and I pulled handles. As I finished up, adjusting the feet or the rims as required, each cup made me feel as if I was having intimate conversations with each of our friends who had lent a hand. The rims, throwing rings, thickness, and interior volume all carried meaning, intention, and personality.

This week I made more cups for gifting. These are in honor of The Hill Center, a community hub in Washington, DC's Capital Hill. This weekend we are participating in the sixth Pottery on the Hill being held at the Center. People who buy tickets to the Friday night reception which supports the Center get to choose a cup as a thank you. Last year we made them as a group, but this year there wasn't a time-slot for that. So I made our share of 24 in our studio. Working by myself I thought about all my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that have helped in these kind of collaborative projects. I considered in particular the friends who have taught me so much about being positive and lending a hand.

cup-stamps.jpgphoto by Margaret Buchanan

These cups are made from a different clay than I normally use and fired at a low temperature. It's a very fast turn-around--making, glazing, firing and letting go. I dried the cups on the wheel arranged in rings on a large circular bat with a heater positioned in front of a fan. The wheel slowly spun allowing each cup access to the warm, dry breeze. As they gently turned they evenly dried. As I saw them rotating I imagined how gifts are like circles. They are not a direct line from one person to the next but a circle of friends who gifted us by joining together to support Warren, Zoë and I so we could gift our friends who have helped us as a family. So we give cups to the Hill Center in a circular sense of good will. I imagine that If I put my fingerprint on this clay and make it into something to touch someone's lips perhaps it might also touch your heart and allow you to give to someone else--in the end creating a larger community than the solo artist spinning her wheel in the hills of Virginia.

photo by The Commoneer

"When the gift moves in a circle its motion is beyond the control of the personal ego, and so each bearer must be a part of the group and each donation is an act of social faith."

― Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property

#16 summer solstice 2017

Paulus Berensohn died yesterday. I have been thinking a lot about my own path, cleaning the studio and gallery, seeing cycles of work, habits of thought and the cycle of seasons. I took some time to flip back through his book Finding One's Way with Clay. It reminds me that when I first read it I thought I had to make a choice in what to study, whether it was dance, painting or pottery. Paulus' book and his life experience gave me an inkling that it was possible to let each discipline inform the next. A kinetic understanding of the material thinking involved in making pottery (the dance) is combined with the visual expression of an image (the painting) which in turn is informed by the potter's intimacy with clay. This three part mix is enriching, each vantage point contributing to a dynamic interaction.

16 summer 2017.jpg"There was no plan. What felt like stumbling as I lived it now appears to have its own logic, its own thread. Dancing took me to an appreciation for the movement of throwing clay. The exposure to clay's life story and it's energy slowed me to the intimacy of pinching, to no selling or exhibiting my work by giving it away or tithing it back to the earth"
--from an oral history interview by Mark Shapiro with Paulus Berensohn, March 20-21, 2009

#15 summer solstice 2017

On Sunday night we went to a party in Pittsboro, North Carolina at  the potter Mark Hewitt's  house. I had last been there twenty years ago. The intrusion of time made its presence known.  I remember when we last visited Zoë was seven. She spent the night at her baby sitter's house here in Warrenton after school and it was fun for Warren and I to drive south instead of north. It was fun to have a night away from home and child and to imagine what if we had moved to North Carolina instead of Virginia. We made it in time for a late lunch at a long table outside with apprentices and friends. It was situated beautifully by his garden with big pitchers of water and a huge salad with hearty bread. The chairs were of different shapes and sizes. The tablecloth was checkered and soft as if it had been used many times. It seemed casual yet carefully orchestrated. Mark was having a museum opening that night which we attended and then afterwards to a dinner. We stayed the night at a motel.

I had first met Mark when I was twenty and he was the apprentice to a famous potter in England. I had hitchhiked to Devon, England and walked the last few kilometers to Michael Cardew's house. It was down a beautiful country lane and the first thing I encountered was this tall young man with curly brown hair carrying two big pitchers of water back to the house. He invited me in and we had a simple lunch with tea. He let me wander around the pottery while he went back to work. Michael was away and Mark let me know that as an apprentice it was not all potting. There was lots of garden chores and household up-keep. I think he was weeding that day as well as recycling clay. At the end of a lovely afternoon he drove me to a beautiful youth hostel on the coast where the sun was setting. The hostel was full, but they let me pull out my sleeping bag in a shed on an old mattress and use the bathroom to brush my teeth and the kitchen to make some tea to have with my cheese and bread. It was the time in my life when I was traveling with a backpack and a notebook looking for the way to my path in life. I had a dream of becoming an apprentice but after meeting Mark I decided that either your grandfather and the potter's grandfather had to be school chums or you just had to arrive on the day when someone had just quit. And so far neither had happened so I was heading home to NYC to make some money and go back to school.

At this Sunday night party there was a dinner with another beautiful salad, a huge loaf of rough peasant bread, polenta, giant white beans with herbs and garlic and lots of different styles of pickles and cheese. I sat back on a bench in the dark and looked at the silhouette of Mark's barn, the kilns shed and a few giant pots balanced in perfect placement against the mowed fields. The place was flawlessly manicured, the roses trimmed, the boards weathered and dirt floor packed. Not a thing out of place. All the choices we had each made to get to this point in time seemed like a distant yet vibrant memory.

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"Occasionally I lean forward and gaze into the water. The water of a pond is a mirror of roughness and honesty - it gives back not only my own gaze, but the nimbus of the world trailing into the picture on all sides. The swallows, singing a little as they fly back and forth across the pond, are flying therefore over my shoulders, and through my hair. A turtle passes slowly across the muddy bottom, touching my cheekbone. If at this moment I heard a clock ticking, would I remember what it was, what it signified?"
--Mary Oliver from her book of essays, Upstream
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