Sorry for the pictures-only posts lately. I've been firing every day for the past five (got another one going now) getting ready for my South Carolina show. This is the last all pictorial post until after the show. Here are some 15" plates I'll be bringing with me (if you look closely in the corners, you'll see the small bowls that I throw in to make them "chip and dip" sets).
It was a day much like these past few -- one of the first warm days of the year. The bus hissed to its daily stop at 8800 Springmill Road and as usual, and thankful to be home, I ran up the gravel drive and into the wide open breezeway -- the room twixt house and garage living up to its name on that day as the warm gentle wind drifted from open door to open door. Mom had all the doors and windows open and through the kitchen door I could hear the Ironrite as the knee pedals clicked and the rotating roller hummed. Everything smelled like home -- the warm Spring wind, the laundry, the additional smell of the dinner mom had started.
The life mom created for me was incredibly comfortable and comforting. A refuge that I can still return to in memories. And she built me that world transparently. Oh, I was always aware of Mom. She was the go-to for comfort, for advice, for permission to go play. But all the effort that went into making those things available for me growing up was done almost without notice. She didn't complain at all the work that -- in retrospect -- was considerable. Dinner every night at 6 P.M. sharp, an orderly house, clean laundry -- they were all accomplished by my single mom with such efficiency that they were too easily taken for granted.
But the exemplary life of loving labor and creativity is one of the greatest gifts mom passed on. The furniture -- the STUFF that surrounded our day to day was the labor of her creative hands....most of my strongest, most vivid memories of mom were of her working with her hands and her creative heart.
I can remember her out on the brick patio, sweat dripping from her face, lost in the effort of sanding away at the pine top of the dining room table -- just one of the many pieces of furniture that she created, refinished, reupholstered, painted -- furniture that went beyond simple function to teach her family that beauty held an important place in a joyful world.
And I can remember when she'd go on a creative jag...like when she came back home from Massachusetts after a summer visit to our family back east. She decided that, like a mature Massachusetts pine forest, the "pie shape" -- an odd triangular section of our large yard that was planted in pines -- would look more naturally elegant if one could see beneath its overgrowth to the needle bed below. So, rusty carpenter's handsaw in hand, mom attacked that hundred-or-more linear feet of pines -- cutting off every branch below three or four feet, stepping back to inspect, and then plowing back in and cutting some more. When she was done, had raked and carried the last of the brush she'd created to the burn pile, her arms and legs red and scratched from a thousand pine needle pokes, she stood at the distance of the back patio with a tall glass of tea (with a sprig of that mint that always grew against the stone wall by the kitchen window)....and she smiled. She smiled like any artist would, standing back from a canvas just perfectly painted. Beauty came at the cost of hard work.
But it was worth the effort. The smile taught me so.
Even her moments of leisure were filled with the industry of creativity. She rarely sat and watched television (Mannix! *smile*) without knitting needles in her hands and her latest project spread out over lap and floor. When her fingers gave out, she even found a way to continue to fulfill the need to create by employing her ancient sewing machine to patch together small quilts.
19th century philosopher, William James, coined a phrase – “The effortless custody of automatism”. It was meant to describe where the intelligent mind goes when the hands are engaged in repetitious industry. I guess you could say that James was describing the converse to the maxim: “the idle brain is the devil’s playground”. When the hands are engaged in worthwhile work, the mind is free to imagine, to create, to problem solve. You could even say that it approximates what most might think of as “meditation”. I think that mom’s values – hard work and deep, meaningful thoughts and words – were mutually supporting.
I think it was the combination of those industrious hands and that intelligent, inquisitive, thoughtful mind that at least partially defined how I remember mom. But I equally remember her vulnerable spirit – her desire to love and be loved and share life with kind, thoughtful, gentle people like herself.
Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I'm heading down to South Carolina for the Artisphere International Art Festival in Greenville next weekend. I opened yesterday's firing of mostly porcelain pieces. Here are some candid snapshots taken outside the kiln room on a worktable. Some of the bowls are still a little warm!
To give an idea of scale, the bowls are at least 14" diameter. Most are 15". Both the pitchers and casseroles are 2 quarts in volume.
These are just some of the porcelain pieces I'll be bringing to Greenville. On Sunday I should be able to shoot the same kind of candid photos of the stoneware I'll be glazing today and firing tomorrow.
Meanwhile, there are bunches of pots to get finished and glazed...
by the way, I made a few little brothers for the big jar I made last week
With bag after bag of white and gray powder, opening a bag of yellow ochre is a feast for the eyes. Been pretty busy, and other than morning runs, Breeze isn't getting as much play time from pop. He has a way of showing his feelings. I comforted Breeze, telling him it could always be worse...
Like most families of my generation, my siblings and I grew up barely knowing our many cousins, aunts and uncles. Not a single nuclear family lived in the same State as another. We were spread out from Minnesota to Massachusetts to South Carolina. I have cousins whom I have never met. There's one family of cousins whose names I don't even know -- Jan, Somecousin, and Someothercousin. The Reids.
And as my siblings and I grew up, we made the same kind of life choices, leading us to distant cities where we raised our children apart from their cousins, aunts and uncles. And so the cycle continues.
Well, from that distance I've been tickled to watch the development of a very talented nephew -- Stephen Bauman. I don't know Stephen. I imagine that the last time I saw him he was probably about five years old. Now I'm guessing him to be in his late twenties. But through the wonder that is the internet, I've been able to at least see the kind of work he produces, and stare at the images with amazement and just a little awe.
Landscape by Stephen Bauman
I think that most people would look at two creative souls -- me and Stephen -- and wonder at some sort of family connection -- some sort of "Creativity gene".
Me? ...I look at what Stephen does and I wonder how in the world did he end up looking at things in the manner he does? How did he develop not just a vision worth sharing, but the skill to share it so effectively?
When I look at Stephen's work, I see someone conversant in a different language -- a demonstration of someone raised in a different sphere of inspiration rather than a shared one that one might presume from our family relationship.
Still Life by Stephen Bauman
Some day maybe I'll meet Stephen and get a chance to ask him questions like that. For now, that meeting is unlikely -- for the past few years he's been teaching at Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, though he will now be teaching at their academy in Sweden.
For now, I'll follow his blog and watch for his images as he posts them on the internet.