December 2012 Archives

#21 winter solstice 2012

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I had hoped to go to the roof to watch the sunset tonight, but it was grey and windy. I looked out the window at the sky and know I can look forward to the shift of longer days. I'll clean the wax out of the candle holders on my Dad's table and light more candles, cook more dinners, and say thank you with a full mouth.

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

From Thanks  by W.S.  Merwin

#20 winter solstice 2012

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I met a friend I have known since I was ten in Tribeca today. We walked through the neighborhood we rarely visit. One stop was at the reincarnation of Zona a Soho store that my family loved in the 80s. The original store seemed to get our family aesthetic of weathered wood, Italian and Mexican travels and the handmade object with an interesting narrative. The new store reminded me of how my own eye has shifted and refocused over the years. E and I lunched in a dark cafe a few blocks south and compared the bookmarks of our lives, children, siblings, and current directions. The afternoon flew by too fast. The dark came too swiftly on the busy holiday  city streets.

_MG_4296.jpgI walk through my life as though I were a bookmark,
a holder of place,

An overnight interruption
                                      in somebody else's narrative.

--Charles Wright, from Nine-Panel Yaak River Screen in A Short History of the Shadow (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2002)

#19 winter solstice 2012

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Nothing's so beautiful as the memory of it

Gathering light as glass does,

As glass does when the sundown is on it

                                           and darkness is still a thousand miles away.

--Charles Wright, from "A Journal of the Year of the Ox" in Zone Journals (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1988)

#18 winter solstice 2012

I started my day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the last room of the Matisse show. My brother, a friend and I studied how the canvas had been re-stretched. We noted drips and choices of red and quality of line. I was struck by Matisse's assurance in brush stroke and variation in color. Still there are huge mysteries in how he captures light. I walked back to the subway in the grey mist of December, and when I arrived back downtown talked about the shape of cups on a table with a writer. I told the story of how I came to make pots. I described fluid nature when using wet clay and the angles of use when fired. I look for clarity in pale light and find answers by putting stems in a vase. When the sun sets I try to remember to catch the colors in the evening clouds.

_MG_4288.jpg"Every thought had a long meaning; every motive had angles and corners, and could be measured. And yet whatever she saw and thought and attempted was still fluid and vague. The shape of a table against afternoon light still held a mystery, awaited a final explanation. You looked for clarity, she wrote, and the answer you had was paleness, the flat white cast that a snowy sky throws across a room."
--Mavis Gallant (Irina from Paris Stories, 2002)

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#17 winter solstice 2012

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I had a slow wet city day. Walking the neighborhood, doing errands for my father, I remembered what Soho and the West Village were like when I was in high school. The buildings may be the same, but the vibe has shifted drastically from artists and galleries to shops and bars. Still there are vestiges of purity and funk such as the sensibility at Omen Azen, a quiet space that could be in Japan or New York where we can see and taste two cultures.  At sunset I rounded the corner to head into a grocery store on Bleeker Street. There was a deciduous tree wrapped with a scotch pine garland. The evergreen highlighted the soft moss and lichen that I would not have expected to see in the city.

_MG_4287.jpg"In winter, consciousness looks like an etching."
--Gretel Ehrlich, from The Solace of Open Spaces (Penguin Books, 1986)

#16 winter solstice 2012

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_MG_4302.jpgStars and moon pour their healing light upon you [from a Gaelic Blessing]

#15 winter solstice 2012

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Today at Omen a friend asked Mikio about rectangular plates I have made for the restaurant. He pulled out some porcelain plates I made in 1983. I remember being struck by how different these plates looked in the light of my studio versus the ambiance of subdued light reflecting off of the rich brown brick walls of Omen. White clay rose sparkling against the dark wood table. I told my friend about a dinner when we used them in the summer of 1984. How the eggplant was served and who was there. She said, "now I can see how your memory cracks open like a nut. It triangulates food, place, and season."

"Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."
--Galileo Galilei

#14 winter solstice 2012

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Everything that the pencil says is erasable,

Unlike our voices, whose words are black and permanent,

Smudging our lives like coal dust,

                                                  unlike our memories,

Etched like a skyline
against the mind,

Unlike our irretrievable deeds ...

The pencil spills everything,
and then takes everything back.

--Charles Wright, from "October II" in Black Zodiac (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997)

Please join us for a  reception at
OMEN AZEN Restaurant
Saturday & Sunday |  December 15-16 | noon to 3pm

whiteness to nothingness

celebrating 30 years with ceramics by
Catherine White & Warren Frederick


113 Thompson Street  (between Prince & Spring)
New York, NY 10012


#13 winter solstice 2012

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After dinner with a few friends we bundled and bumped into the dark with the dogs to view the meteor shower in the cold night. No moon and brilliant stars through the branches of the bare trees. My last class for the semester behind me and the great sea of the night sky ahead.

I love to look at the new moon through the bare branches of winter trees.

Always the same moon, the same branches,

Always new entrances

                                and caustic geographies.

The stars are still visible, like stunned impurities

In the great sea of anthracite that is the night sky.

--Charles Wright, from "Scar Tissue II" in Scar Tissue (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006)

#12 winter solstice 2012

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I always struggle with the short December days, by writing and photographing and focusing on seeing what I see, I have found beauty. The last few years I fight with the bittersweet vines on our property. As I cut them for my vases I thought I'll learn to see beauty in these vines that choke my field. I'll learn to love them as I open my camera, my eyes, the window and the door to see the sunrise, clouds, shadows, vines and tonight's spectacular sunset.

"My mother always closes her bedroom drapes tight
before going to bed at night.

I open mine as wide as possible.
I like to see everything, I say.
What's there to see?

Moon. Air. Sunrise.
All that light on your face in the morning. Wakes you up.
I like to wake up.
-- Anne Carson, from "The Glass Essay"

#11 winter solstice 2012

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There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.

Each time I think "this," it answers "that."

Answers hard, in the heart-grammar's strictness.

--Jane Hirshfield, opening strophe to "Against Certainty" from After (Harper Perennial, 2006)

#10 winter solstice 2012

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"We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark; and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

#9 winter solstice 2012

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As a potter I try to establish relationships through objects. These objects carry meaning, history, observations, and feeling. When someone buys a piece and takes it home I feel like they are saying, "Yes I get it; I understand the language that you speak. I get the story you tell, hear song you sing."
When friends ask if it's hard to let go of work I tell them no--it means I am communicating and now I have the opportunity to create new things. As I  make pots I focus on trying to tell each story more clearly. Making and telling my story is what I live for.

"A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals.  He isn't telling, or teaching, or ordering.  Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship with meaning, of feeling, of observing.  We are lonesome animals.  We spend all our lives trying to be less lonesome.  And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, 'Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that's the way I feel it. You're not as alone as you thought.' To finish is sadness to a writer, a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done."
--John Steinbeck

#8 winter solstice 2012

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I empty myself with light
Until I become morning.

--Charles Wright, closing lines to "33" in Littlefoot: A Poem (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007)


Cranberry walnut toast and coffee as I become morning.
come see what we make,
and fill yourself with orange cranberry chocolate cake
and clay and light
while it lasts...
come see what we make!

#7 winter solstice 2012

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There is always a moment in December when I am walking up the driveway in the dark and there is no moon and no visible light. I find my way by feel.  I step and ask am I on the gravel or am I off the path and on the grass. I step again... Is this the path? It is both disorienting and a great reminder of what it's like to be on the path to making new work.

2012-12-06-cups.jpgTonight it was particularly resonant as I carried a new large moon vase from the studio to the gallery. There was no moon in the sky; I cradled it in my arms,  no hands left for a flashlight.

Looking forward to filling cups and sharing new work


#6 winter solstice 2102

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"I don't believe that poetry can save the world. I do believe that the forces in us wish to share something of our experience by turning it into something and giving it to somebody: that is poetry.  That is some kind of saving thing, and as far as my life is concerned, poetry has saved me again and again."

--Muriel Rukeyser


The same could be said for pottery. I don't believe it can save the world. I do believe that forces within  us drive us to share something of personal experience. We turn our experience into how we touch and shape clay, which in turn, is transformed by heat. The object that can be used enables us to give and receive... that object is pottery. As far as my life is concerned pottery has kept me sane and saved me over and over again.

#5 winter solstice 2012

I told myself as I walked before sunset, this is as good as it gets. A short brisk walk around the pond with the dog. I left the studio in pitch black and my knees snap, crackle, and pop up the hill. Then, as if by magic, the outdoor light turned on. It was getting cold and Warren had just flicked on the lights. The dome of dark descends too early for my natural rhythms but I'll go on walking my tune, I'll go on cleaning pots, painting lines and listening to the geese, ducks, and swans on the pond.

"Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself--
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

-- Mark Strand, Lines for Winter

#4 winter solstice 2012

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My mother ingrained in me the habit of setting the dinner table with candles. As an artist and poet the play of light and resonance of family ritual seemed to come naturally to her.  In my home I try to build on the poetic memory. As a potter and or cook, I juggle the language of ingredients, quantities and ideas. A sudden inspiration can light the candles I carry in my family history. I find the flame shines way beyond the mundane vision of the daily grind. I set our dinner in plates and bowls on the table and light the candles to spread the mix of language of material, reverberation of color, and balance of taste.


There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
--Edith Wharton

#3 winter solstice 2012

I have been so impressed by the strength of my volunteer calendula flowers as they keep blooming despite the cold nights. They are like yellow poems written in my withered garden. In today's Indian summer weather the fields immediately appeared more green as if spring were around the corner, instead of heralding the imminent shortest day.


Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.

--Kahlil Gibran

#2 winter solstice 2012

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"I cultivated silence like a rare plant

glimmer by glimmer
I deciphered the night


I mixed flesh with clay and with light

mixed breath with what was already breath
my shadow climbed a long path to reach me
one day I entered the house of language
I nested two birds where the heart ought to be
I crossed the poem's mirror and it crossed me
I trusted the spark of the word"

Amina Saïd (tr. Marilyn Hacker), from Path of Light; more of the poem

winter solstice 2012 #1

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Here is the first in this year's series of images leading up to the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.