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#4 winter solstice 2016

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In December I grow accustomed to feeding the dog early and taking our walk before 5pm. I trust that doing my writing practice and my bits of yoga will get me through the short daylight hours. I talk to friends who struggle with the lack of light and others who are grieving for lost friends and parents or the election. I have learned to see the sliver of the moon as a sign of hope. But there are still cloudy evenings when I don't get out the door soon enough and I walk in the dark without moon or stars. Meeting my well worn paths with a sure step I feel a larger darkness looming at the edge of my brain. And those are the nights when I lose the trail and walk smack dab into a tree. My forehead throbs, my brain aches, my mood lands in the gutter. I refocus and grope and look to the edges of my night vision for direction. I wonder does the darkness shift? My eyes adjust, I slow my breath and set my sight on the warm light of the studio and home which has become my true north.

04 winter 2016.jpgWe grow accustomed to the Dark -

When Light is put away -

As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp

To witness her Good bye -



A Moment - We Uncertain step

For newness of the night -

Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -

And meet the Road -erect -



And so of larger - Darknesses-
Those Evenings of the Brain -

When not a Moon disclose a sign -

Or Star - come out - within -



The Bravest - grope a little -

And sometimes hit a Tree

Directly in the Forehead -


But as they learn to see -


Either the Darkness alters -

Or something in the sight

Adjusts itself to Midnight -

And Life steps almost straight.


--Emily Dickinson, "We Grow Accustomed to the Dark"



#2 winter solstice 2016

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When I have been out walking the dog in the dark and I come home hungry with no idea of what to make for dinner I start by slicing an onion and sautéing some garlic and then the rest of the dinner comes together. This series of images starts with some cotton fabric that had the residue of iron slip on wet clay from making nothingness plates for Omen-Azen in New York. These marks were the beginning of the story.

02 winter2016.jpgYou may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.
 
--Jane Hirshfield, from De Capo, in The Lives of the Heart

#1 winter solstice 2016

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Here is the first image in my solstice project. The usual sequence is 21 images with thoughts leading towards December 21, the shortest day of the year.

_WAF5514.jpgSpring passes and one remembers one's innocence.

Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.

Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.

Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.

-Yoko Ono

fall firing 2012

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persimmons.jpgPersimmons have become a fall firing tradition. Their color, shape and seasonal appearance set the tone as we begin to fill the kiln.

kat-set.jpg
Kat brought a plate and small cups to stack in the kiln and as she arranged them our after lunch thoughts turned to a quick shot of espresso and a ginger snap to keep us focused on how best to fill the kiln with an awareness of flame path and ash deposits.

jars-2012.jpg
From the largest Jar to the smallest cup each pot has its place it takes time and thought to shift and adjust and find the right spot.

the love of october

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moon-plate-print.jpg"I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring"

From "The Love of October" by W.S.Merwin
 moon-vases-2012.jpg
The September moon has had a big influence on the accumulation of pots for the October firing. The wood has been delivered and the shelves of pots are getting full.

digesting penland

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penland-glove.jpgI am home again after teaching at Penland School of Crafts. My class was working in the upper clay studio and its goal was to fire the wood kiln. The pace of a two week session is very intense. We had to make all the work in the first week so that we had time to dry, fire, and cool the kiln before the end of the session. My concept was that we would make enough work to fill the kiln, fire it and get into a rhythm of producing drawings, collages, and notes. I hoped to give the students a recipe for working and a process for digesting and developing their own ideas.

penland-pots-for-kiln.jpgBack in my studio, unpacking tools, pots, and notebooks, I am trying to assemble my experience of the session into some kind of order. For me that means drawing and collaging. While collating the paper shards into one notebook I am drawing not only what I made, but also what I imagined making and what my students attempted.

Roosting in my own house where my husband and I--as well as the dog--walk and talk in small circles, it is a stark contrast to Penland's variety of studios and the large circular tables of the Pines dining hall. While we are also in rolling hills, the vistas of the North Carolina valleys are steeper and mountains feel deeper; the momentum of such varied studios making disparate objects was energizing.

penlnd-collage.jpg
At one dinner I asked Chris Benfey, the session bridging writer-in-residence, what he was working on. Chris said he had been re-reading The Jungle Book by Kipling and was tussling with the difference between when Mowgli is kidnapped by the monkeys versus his adoption in the wolf family. He was curious as to how Kipling manipulated our allegiance to the wolves and our agitated antipathy to the more human-like primates. On my drive back to Virginia I thought about how the Japanese had invaded Korea in the very late 1500s and kidnapped whole villages of Korean potters. The Japanese have had a long history of adapting Chinese ideas and making them their own, but in this instance the so-called pottery wars led to a Korean infusion into Japanese aesthetics, the discovery of porcelain and fundamental alterations to various ceramic traditions.

penland-fingers.jpg
I wasn't totally sure what to make of these conflicting concepts, but somehow it also resonated with another contrast discussed by Rachel Miller, the teacher of wearable sculpture. In her slide talk she contrasted the idea of a treadmill versus the labyrinth. Do we keep our hands making because we need the exercise or do we do it with thought and meditation? Does an external influence enhance our practice or do we just tramp along in our same old rut, stomping out new potentials without thought.

penalnd-idea-thief.jpgIn my process of digesting my experience of teaching and firing, I ran across a note captured during one night of instructor images: "Idea thief."  Often when I look at the work in a teaching studio after a well known artist visits, the pieces that students subsequently make seem like they have been generated from kidnapped tricks applied to their own materials and firing techniques. It occurred to me that what I want is for my students is to adopt ideas, not to kidnap them. I hope they have imbibed inspirations that motivate their own aesthetic path. Returning to their own studios I urge them to nurture new approaches to their materials, to cultivate their concepts for making and using objects, to reinvigorate their perceptions of form and perhaps to apply new theories for stacking and firing their kilns.

penland-quartet.jpg "For Benfey, ceramics also possesses the explanatory power of metaphor, standing in for all artistic creation. It represents what people make of places, literally and otherwise. Transitory wayfarers pause, grasp what lies beneath their feet and form it into creations both utilitarian and beautiful. The handle of a pot, he writes, 'marks the journey from one world to the other; it is the suspension bridge from the world of art to the world of use.' "
 
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#21 summer solstice 2012

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When I started this solstice project writing and posting through short winter days allowed me to see beauty in the dark and focus my busy heart on the glint, glimmer and shadow. I love the summer sensations so much I found it harder to roost my words in the moments of lingering light. The songs of my childhood heart beat loudest in June. Now that the longest day has passed I find a sinking sadness that the days of 2012 are shorter from here on out. I will have to recommit to making the effort to find the image, see the word, and hear the light in all of its variations.

_MG_1626-2.jpgTake your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.

-- Mary Oliver, from What Can I Say

#20 summer solstice 2012

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Due to the fact that 2012 is a leap year today is really the longest day of the year, but in my mind this is a 21 day project so there is still one day left.... Yesterday the heat kicked in and today it built into that incredible oppressive wave of humidity that is summer in Virginia. I was not in the swing of summer mode. I turned on the ac and we hosted a luncheon for the members of the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club who came to see my pots and studio. They brought the food. We provided the plates and the place and I think they ate it up in every sense of the term. When it came time to water the garden in the fading light I realized I forgot to take a photo for today. So I reached back in our archive to a tulip poplar moment before June began.


tulip poplar flower.jpg

"I wanted to stay as I was
still as the world is never still,
not in midsummer but the moment before
the first flower forms, the moment
nothing is as yet past--"
-- Louise Glück, opening lines to "The Doorway", in The Wild Iris
 

#19 summer solstice 2012

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Last night  friends came to visit bringing gifts from an Asian farm in Delaware. They brought Chinese cucumbers, Japanese eggplants and Kabosu  a small  green citrus that is related to the yuzu. I had to write down the name so I would not forget. We discussed friends and acquaintances and a painter's name dropped from our memories like a rock through a hole in Swiss cheese. In the morning I came up with the artist's name but forgot the dancer I was trying to recall.

_MG_1606.jpg



Forgetfulness
The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never

even heard of,



as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.



Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses good-bye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,



something else is slipping away,
a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.



Whatever it is you are struggling to remember

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.



It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a
bicycle.



No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

-- Billy Collins


June 18 2012

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This evening on my dog walk around the pond, it was the kind of grey where every shade of leaf, memory and minnow speaks vividly. I found the first blackberries of the season at the edge of the path. I ate a few just as a test  then carefully carried a few more home to photograph. I protected the precious fruit as the dog pulled the leash to chase a groundhog. I let her off when she was on the scent of another animal. When I got home I set the berries to the side of Warren's photo shoot so I could compose my shot when he was finished. When he quit I went to set up my shot but the berries were gone.  I asked about the three black berries he said "Oh I thought they were a gift."
I guess they were.

_MG_1602.jpg
Night covers the pond with its wing.
Under the ringed moon I can make out
your face swimming among minnows and the small
echoing stars. In the night air
the surface of the pond is metal.

Within, your eyes are open. They contain
a memory I recognize, as though
we had been children together.

The pond by Louise Gluck

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