December 2008 Archives

#21-focus-winter solstice 2008

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This afternoon Zoë and I looked through journals my parents had created for their parents to document living in Europe during 1951 and 1952. The pictures of Italy, Greece, and France were both familial and eloquent, attesting to so many realms of life that have disappeared. Zoë was struck by how much we all take after each other.

We found drawings I had done as a small child with my name printed mirror-image backwards. Zoë looked at them and said it seemed like a picture perfect dyslexic illustration. We read a children's book my parents had written and inspected all of their handmade, eclectic birth announcements. I saw the character of my hand and vision so clearly evident in these photos, books, and collections. As I sat down a few minutes ago to work on my Christmas presents, I thought--reminded yet again--that I cannot fight my innate outlook nor my desire to make things. With this sequence of solstice images I re-learn that focusing on a chosen pot, a daily drawing, and a given day's light helps me to intuit more about images, more about pots, and more about how the light affects me.

Best wishes for a family-rich and friend-rich holiday!

22-shards-on-shards-1000w.jpgWe deal in things that are continually vanishing...and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on Earth that can make them come back again...  --Henri Cartier-Bresson

#20-shell-winter solstice 2008

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This afternoon, with my father, daughter, husband, and dog, we went on an outing to select an Xmas tree. We made an easy choice and brought our tree up to  Dad's apartment. Zoe and I strung lights: we started with new lights on the tree, then were carried away to drape old lights over the tall window frames, all infiltrating some white sparkle into the late afternoon gloom.


Life is a scavenger hunt. Expect the unexpected and you will find it.--Keri Smith

19-cup-near-drawn-cup-1000w.jpgmore solstice at

#18-empty-winter solstice 2008

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#17-tea-solstice 2008


Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. - Catherine Douzel

17-teapot-1000w.jpgI walk and then I remember to plant the garlic. I was told that it should be planted on the winter solstice, but tonight in the last shades of light, I push the cloves into the ground unsure of depth, unsure of timing, but this must be what I wanted to be doing-standing with my hands in the mud on a December night. I remember the early spring when I last cursed the missed opportunity, forgetting to plant the garlic once again. Yet I also remember, some charitable soul said, a true gardener never seems to do things at the right time, they do them when they have the time.

#16-things-solstice 2008

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I have a crazy,

crazy love of things.

I like pliers,

and scissors.

I love



and bowls -


--Pablo Neruda, from Ode to Things


Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.    -- Chinese proverb

In the late afternoon I drew with shades of gray between the necks of my bottles, looking for subtle contrasts in gray and white. At 4:30 I quit to take the dog for her spin. As we rounded the corner of the hillside by the pond there was a flock of six swans. Two of them were young, still a bit gray.  The slight shifts in white and gray against the sunset colors felt just like my drawn background. With their necks extended and twisted I saw bottles in my imagination. We circled the pond, up the road and back down the driveway.  As we stood at the crest of the road, the swans took off and circled overhead, now warm gray against the cool blue-gray sky.  These dog walks as the evening moves into darkness feel centered with grays, while later walks from studio to house are uncentered by the darkness's brute strength before the moon has risen.


Keep writing in the dark:

a record of the night, or

words that pulled you from the depth of unknowing,

words that flew through your mind, strange birds

crying their urgency with human voices,


or opened

as flowers of a tree that blooms

only once in a lifetime:


words that may have the power

to make the sun rise again.


--- Denise Levertov from Writing in the Dark

#14-boulders-solstice 2008

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Due to a cold and lots of talk, I have lost my voice and thus my train of thought.


a rolling boulder gathers no moss.
a rolling stone reminds me of the moon.
a rolling stone rolls around in my tired brain....

tonight's picture is worth the words
thanks!  Catherine

#13-momentary-solstice 2008

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-- Woody Allen said (in some fashion) time was invented to keep everything from happening at once.

13-momentary-1000w.jpgOften when I am painting/printing images of circular plates, I think they could be seen as either plates or moons. I have a set of plates (as glimpsed in tonight's image) that I originally painted as black line grasses, but after firing I turned my idea on its ear by seeing them as black horizon lines.

Tonight, I didn't get out for my dog walk until well after the moon had risen. As I approached the pond, the reflection I saw was the black lines of trees bisecting the reflection of the moon--full circle, the plates became tonight's vision of the moon.

 Even the bowl of cherries she left in her kitchen

Is worth regard, a bowl they might have painted

In a rush of sympathy for objects small and frail,

Insubstantial and insignificant, or a rush of awe

At how ready the cherries and the bowl appear

To give themselves to the light that's left them,

With nothing held in reserve for a better day.


--Carl Dennis from Birthday

12-scratches-1000w.jpg The day spun by cleaning, arranging, and shifting, bowls, plates, vases and cups as we prepare the gallery. I took a break to walk my dog with a friend's dog. We circled their pond, the dogs describing big arcs and acrobatic tumbles. As I turned away from the sunset to return to the house I was surprised by the huge full moon rising above the tree line. It was as if the moon held nothing in reserve for a better moment.

#11-drift-solstice 2008

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This is the grass your feet are planted on.

You paint it orange or you sing it green,

But you have never found

A way to make the grass mean what you mean.


A cloud can be whatever you intend:

Ostrich or leaning tower or staring eye.

But you have never found

A cloud sufficient to express the sky.


--Adrienne Rich - from Rural Reflections

11-drift-1000w.jpgI arrived home last night after dark. Even though it was hidden behind the clouds, the moon made the pond mysterious and bright. In Washington I had looked at the fog on the Potomac, subtle shades of white in a gallery and paused to discuss poets and titles. As our words drifted, pondering associations of the material to the conceptual, our eyes read the tunes of clay arrangements.

#10-tablescape 2-solstice 2008

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It is the ugly things that teach us, that are the backbone of all the beauty we may one day make.

--Paul Madonna, as quoted in Danny Gregory's new book, An Illustrated Life

10-tablescape2-1000w.jpg[Prior solstice series]

#9-tablescape-solstice 2008

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Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

--Octavio Paz, from Between Going and Staying

09-tablescape1-1000w.jpgBetween to-do lists and dog walks, I am coming and going. Bottles, bowls and cups are visible and rest in shadows of color under a gray December sky.

#8-moon-winter solstice 2008

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So far this month the moon has been incredible. Last night as I was up at 2 am to adjust the kiln I watched as the half moon walked down the sky behind the hills.

08-moon-vase-1000w.jpgThe night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.
-- Frederic Lawrence Knowles

[Prior Solstice Series are at:]

# 7-doors-winter solstice 2008

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The year's doors open

like those of language,

toward the unknown.

Last night you told me:


we shall have to think up signs,

sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan

on the double page

of day and paper.

Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,

once more,

the reality of this world


--Octavio Paz
translated by Elizabeth Bishop from January First

#6-silence-winter solstice 2008

Thumbnail image for 06-text-bowl-1000w.jpg
And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,

a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house--

the silence before I wrote a word

and the poorer silence now.

-- Billy Collins from the poem, Silence

I am like a remnant of a cloud of autumn uselessly roaming in the sky. --Rabindranath Tagore
05-remnant-1000w.jpgMy day was sandwiched by walks and shifts in light. There was the predawn walk to get the paper with the pooch where the gravel rolled out into deep shades of grey. Then, just before darkness, the 4:30 walk went past a single white swan floating on the darkening pond, ending with the remnant of sunset colors hugging the hills. The daylight hours are so short the workday felt like the edges were ripped off. Even so, pots are glazed and we returned the shed to working order.  The gas kiln is ready to be stacked.
04-geologic-1000w.jpgNo summer is long enough to take away the winter. The winter always comes. You try to get a feeling for the proportions of a full life, one that confronts everything. An animal dies. You face two central, philosophical questions: What is death, and what is the nature of an animal? You fall asleep on the summer tundra in the streaming light. You awake to the sound of birds--plovers and Lapland longspurs. Inches from your eye, an intense cluster of Parisian blue flowers. A few inches farther a poppy nods under the weight of a bumblebee. Above, cumulus clouds as voluptuous as summer fruits. You roll over and embrace the earth.

--Barry Lopez, from Arctic Dreams
I always thought inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to break and a bolt of lightning to hit you in the head you're not going to make an awful  lot of work.  --Chuck Close

03-entwined-bottles-1000wide.jpgLast winter it hurt to draw with my left hand. (I am left handed.)  Instead of quitting drawing I listened to interviews and audio books while working.  I started cutting up pieces of paper, arranging them, and then making rubbings with my right hand. I appreciated that using the non-dominant hand created fresh, awkward lines with an amateurish quality. Limitations forced a new solution.

The current series of drawings/rubbings are one outgrowth of that period. These are rubbings from pots, the concrete studio floor, and the various boards and slabs of wood hanging around the studio. They remind me of the gritty quality of New York City that I loved as a sixteen-year old high schooler. I had dreams of capturing the patterns of fire escapes or of making rubbings of the manhole covers and the sidewalk cracks that I passed every day on my walk to school.

"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from and where you will go." Rebecca Solnit

Zoe reminded me yesterday about how my solstice project originated from a love of Advent calendars. She asked me to buy one and send it to her at school. Last night she had been to a meeting where they lit one candle and read inspirational quotes.  The idea of that simple light reignited my desire to draw. I sketch the dark and light and mix it with my pots.

Talking with Zoe (who is in her first year of college) reminds me of the transformative experiences I had at 19. For her it is new to leave home and meet kids from so many different backgrounds. It forces her to reexamine what she has always taken for granted. I launch projects hoping for some kind of evolution in vision or expression, but I don't know what it is until it is accomplished. I am constantly trying to shift the boundaries of my work, subtly altering palettes of clay, glaze, firing, and drawing. The job description of the artist requires opening doors and inviting in the unfamiliar, to shift boundaries so that old territory is seen afresh. We make or arrange or collect or describe so that daily life becomes novel.

In this solstice series I open my mind to the dark nights. As in every year, I am shocked and surprised by how early the sun sets.  I have to push every single evening to get out the door for that dog walk when there is still light in the sky. As patterns shift with the season I am looking into the dark for that unknown spark of new work.

J. Robert Oppenheimer said, "live always on the edge of mystery--the boundary of the unknown."

#1 - shift - winter solstice

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This is the first in this year's winter solstice series. I'm trying something new - posting the images and text on the blog and just sending an email notice after I post.