Sunday, 6 March 2016

Focus Focus Focus!

So much for focus. The saying goes that we cannot see the forest for the trees yet sometimes it really is more that we cannot see the trees for the forest. If we’re supposed to think outside the box, see the big picture, imagine the grand scheme, then we lose sight of the fine print, the intricate pixels, the unique details that make up the greater vision. The plan – the focus – yesterday was to make several chawan or tea bowls, using a porcelain that is known not only as easier to work with (to which I can attest) than my beloved English porcelain but also less expensive. Win win, right?!? Uh, nope. After several attempts, I had two which were deemed moderately passable. I am not a quitter, I am a lazy perfectionist. BIG difference… So, I hastily wedged a few of the slumped failures and made a biscuit jar, which would have been more than passable were it not full of micro air bubbles. It seems my focus was thrown off (pun or no pun – you decide!) by finally really getting into this biography of Michael Cardew.
It is not an easy read due to the excrutiating minutiae – lots and lots of tiny, tiny trees. I left off yesterday at the point in 1942 as Cardew is about to set off from England for Achimota, the Gold Coast, Africa. Of late, I have been thinking ‘tis time I start planning to set off for England, to see from whence my paternal grandparents came, and oh to see all the pots and potteries. Could my parents have known my name means “wanderer”? While I haven’t wandered much, my mind is always wandering, through the trees. Maybe I just need to look a little more closely…

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Zest Joy Gratitude

Long before those words became overly intertwined with the so-called [New Age] “journey of enlightenment”…and soap, they had other, truer meanings. I was reminded very well and very timely of that today, at a funeral no less. To live life with zest, joy, and gratitude is not always an easy commitment; at times, it can be a challenge far beyond our reach – physically, mentally, emotionally. Yet it is always within our grasp, even if ever so tiny. Let us make more time to find and create those moments that bring zest to life, surround ourselves with those people (and pets!) who give us joy, and share our gratitude by encouraging others to do the same. So reach out, grab a virtual mitten-full of goodies (suitable for all dietary needs), and go forth!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Wandering through the Wonder...

Basking in the glorious sunshine today, Christmas-time is as much about reflection on the year that was than New Year's is about the year to be, as I am grateful for generous friends, good times, a cat named Chloe, inspiration, and opportunity. We need to take - no, make - more time to wander and wonder, at all that is calm and bright, whatever we believe, believing in the power of all that is good and light. "The soul needs more space than the body." (Dr. Axel Munthe) My Christmas wish is for all to pursue their happy purpose, to be their own light with peace and goodwill. and to all a good night!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Looking back and paddling on.

There are those who live by the motto, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” In many respects, this is quite agreeable, yet not always, because it is all quite subjective. Ultimately, it is more about how we look back, and what we do with that view. If we do not look back, how can we move on, propelled by the memories - whether one or many - of good things past? This has been the most amazing year of my far! For that, I am truly grateful, so as I noted the anniversaries of the loss of both parents three years ago last month, I thought of the things I did not know, did not ask. But more importantly, I tried to honour the things I did know, to celebrate the things they shared, to thrive on all the good that has been since. To those who are having to cope with struggle or loss, particularly this time of year, my wish is one day, you will also be able to look back and paddle on with joy. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Near the end of the beginning...

A lot of mixed feelings today as the count is on for my residency to come to an end. The last few days have been spent puttering rather than pottering as I was reluctant to start any new work in case it could not be completed in time. The coming days will be busy enough - final group of work is being biscuit fired tomorrow. Then, after another review of my copious notes (there's a sententious word...positively pithy!), it will be a glazing and "salting" bender on Tue., load for final firing on Wed., unload and scribe more notes aplenty on Thu., and pack on Fri. *sigh* But it is hardly the end. Rather, it is the beginning - inizio. Nuovo inizio, to be more precise. While I had a clear plan and certain expectations, the time spent and the work that I have been so blessed to do (Step right up, folks! Get your clichés here!) truly has been more than I ever could have hoped or imagined. And while that initial feeling of exile (with a splash of guilt) in being away from family, friends, co-workers, has not completely gone away, it most certainly has taken on new value. Reading a lovely book today, "Lucie Rie & Hans Coper - Potters in Parallel", I found the following observation by one of the authors, Edmund de Wall: "To be exiled... You are existential: your lens is clear; you read your new surroundings with unclouded perception." Here's to everyone finding their beginning.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

"Were you a Punk?"

It originated a few days earlier at pizza dinner. Pietro extended an invitation to the famous Pizzeria Maroni, so of course, I spiffy up by wearing my assorted rings. One of our little group was well-respected, much-admired (and incredibly humble) English potter, John Colbeck, who has also spent the last few weeks at La Meridiana. [How ever did I happen upon this good fortune?!?] John (first-name basis, no less...) noticed the rings and asked "Were you a Punk?" Crikey! I haven't been asked that since my faux-punk days of the, ahem, '80s New Wave. "Well, kind of", I replied. The question was positively answered a few days later when Pietro and John were conducting Raku firings for the other potter in residence. Ah, I love the smell of Raku in the morning, as my good studio mate, Mary Hastings, would say. So notes John: "Stick with porcelain." Me: "Oh, but I really like Raku." John: "Really?! That's the Punk in you." Yes! That's what is so brilliant about the possibilities of clay: so many different types of clays, forms, glazes, firings, purposes, aesthetics, let alone the assorted history of it all... It's as if pottery can offer nine lives, or at least two, much like Meenoo here, one of the gatti di casa: not quite lurking behind the leaves yet completely basking in the sunshine. Working with clay can allow for that duality of being and purpose: one can feel equally at home whether in the methodical control of functional porcelain or in the chaotic freedom of non-functional Raku. And that's my clay-punk story.

Friday, 21 November 2014

"The Tourist has returned!" [But I don't want to be a tourist!]

And so was the warm welcome (in quotes) from Pietro as I was back to the studio after a side-trip to Faenza (Region of Emilia-Romagna), ceramics capital of the world. Even if [you think!] you have no interest in ceramics whatsoever, and it takes two trains and over three and a half hours to get there from here, a visit is highly recommended, for Faenza è una città bella! Friendly people, good food, easy navigation, and best of all - hardly any tourists, at least this time of year! It was a bit jarring to be travelling again, going through Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence on the way there and back: "Who are all you people?!?" All of this made me really reflect on a discussion we had last week with Isabella, a ceramics teacher from Insituto Lorenzo di Medici, at La Meridiana with a group of students for the day. It was my good fortune to join them for lunch (prepared by the lovely Alessia, the office assistant), and we were talking about travel and Florence and how, once one has spent any time there, one can really want to call it "my Florence". Isabella observed (paraphrasing!): "You are not a tourist. Tourists come and go and try to see everything in a day but see nothing, because they're too busy taking photos, and trying to see everything. You are a traveller. A traveller takes time to experience the culture, to live in the culture." Yes, even though I have travelled little, I am a traveller. This had already come more clearly to light from the forward in the book, "Betty Woodman. Teatros. Théâtres. Theatres." (2005), which observes that "Any traveler in principle warrants a safe harbour." in discussing that potter's time split between homes in New York and Tuscany: "Two very special places...which evidently feed her creative force." I am blessed to have Ontario and Tuscany, the latter if only fleetingly but more than ever, always with me, travelling.