December 2016 Archives

On this shortest day of the year we arrived home tonight just at sunset squeezing in a brief amble around the pond. We then lit a small bonfire, swelling our senses with the outdoors and the flickering light and the quiet. There is a thin coat of ice on the pond that spoke to us in a shimmering, bird-like voice reminding us that as dark as the night may seem the days are getting longer and the garden will be green again.

21 winter 2016.jpgThese nights are gifts
our hands unwrapping the darkness
to see what we have.
--Carol Ann Duffy, from "December," Rapture: Poems (Picador, 2005)

#20 winter solstice 2016

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After an afternoon of errands we returned home to feed our pets and walk. The sun had dropped below the horizon and the pale colors set the tempo of our steps. The temperature dropped and our hoods came up, but we kept the rhythm going, beating the same path, yet paying attention to the day's nuances.

20 winter 2016.jpgMark Strand
Lines for Winter
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.
(for Ros Krauss)

#19 winter solstice 2016

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The long hours without the sun need to be loved, like the potato loves the dark dirt or the potter loves plastic soils. We love the clay as much as the shape it describes or the words they reference.

19 winter 2016.jpgThe long silences need to be loved, perhaps
more than the words
which arrive
to describe them
in time.
--Franz Wright, from "Home Remedy," God's Silence: Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 2008

#18 winter solstice 2016

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When we fire the wood kiln I think of the process as a type of collaboration with the heat and ash from the burning wood, the clay from which we make the pots, and our hands. We work with the kiln knowing how to place things, making educated guesses based on past history. We stack, fire, and then we wait while the kiln cools for a week. We wait and rest and refresh our vision so that when the kiln is opened we (perhaps) can move beyond preconceived ideas. There is a moment of trust, a rigorous permissive process, wherein the object which has been held in suspension can be recognized for what is working and not working. Ash which is heavy or surfaces which are rough, colors that are quiet or unexpected are all part of the conversation. My responsibility as an artist is to be open to all manners of result, and to recognize what I was after all along.

18 winter 2016.jpgBut not knowing, waiting and finding -- though they may happen accidentally, aren't accidents. They involve work and research. Not knowing isn't ignorance. (Fear springs from ignorance.) Not knowing is a permissive and rigorous willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility without result, regarding as possible all manner of response. The responsibility of the artist ... is the practice of recognizing.
-- Ann Hamilton

#17 winter solstice 2016

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We woke this morning to a thin coat of ice on every surface. I was exhausted but wandered the field paying attention to how the ice covered every pine needle and piece of gravel, listening to the way my feet crushed the frozen grass and leaves. I meandered from pond to wood pile, mail box to compost, Chinese chestnut to black walnut. The shifting light of the day kept me engaged and as always at this time of year the sunset took me by surprise. As if the question already was waiting in the wings, more important than the answer now?

17 winter 2016.jpgA life of making isn't a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things: it is an everyday practice. It is a practice of questions more than answers, of waiting to find what you need more often than knowing what you need to do. Waiting, like listening and meandering, is best when it is an active and not a passive state.
--Ann Hamilton

#16 winter solstice 2016

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Last night we went to the MFA open studios at SVA where our daughter is in her second year. While standing in her studio with some friends Zoe wore one of her soft sculptures which she had titled "armor."  The acquaintance asked, "where did you grow up?" "Funny you ask," said Zoe. "I grew up in rural Virginia, but my Mom grew up here in New York City as the child of two artists." Zoe went on to explain that we made pottery and there was always an ongoing discussion about the world of art and craft whether in a gallery or at the breakfast table.

16 winter 2016.jpg"I asked my ten-year-old son, Emmett, what he thought art was for and he said, "Nothing." He said, "It isn't good for anything." And as he saw my eyes roll back in my head, thinking, this is what you get from a kid whose parents are both artists, he quickly added: "Art just is." He said "Art just is" with an assumption that, like breakfast on the table, it will always be there -- a given of a culture. In my head, I could hear a voice saying in response to his confidence: "Yes, but..." Can I really believe ... that all the collective acts of making carry a weight that can counter the acts of unmaking that accrue daily? For acts of making to be acts of resistance and tools of remembering, this given-ness has to be made and maintained, and to have room made for it."
--Ann Hamilton

#15 winter solstice 2016

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15 winter 2016.jpgOne doesn't arrive -- in words or in art -- by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don't know. You may set out for New York but you may find yourself as I did in Ohio. You may set out to make a sculpture and find that time is your material. You may pick up a paint brush and find that your making is not on canvas or wood but in relations between people. You may set out to walk across the room but getting to what is on the other side might take ten years. You have to be open to all possibilities and to all routes -- circuitous or otherwise.
-- Ann Hamilton

#14 winter solstice 2016

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When friends ask about how do I construct these epistles I never know exactly how to answer. I collect pots and bits of backgrounds and quotes. I make my way through the day noticing the light, the wildlife, or something in the garden. I then collage it all together, hoping that in the process I see something new. Even if I put a leaf in a bowl each season, it is a different sculptural sense of leaf or a different bowl on a new ground. The assemblage changes the way I see. Perhaps it might change your sight, amplifying what it means to make things.

14 winter 2016.jpgEvery act of making matters. How we make matters. I like to remember, and remark with regularity, that the word "making" occupies seventeen pages in the Oxford English Dictionary, so there are multiple possibilities for a lifetime of making: make a cup, a conversation, a building, an institution, make memory, make peace, make a poem, a song, a drawing, a play; make a metaphor that changes, enlarges, or inverts the way we understand or see something. Make something to change your mind -- acts that amplify.
--Ann Hamilton

#13 winter solstice 2016

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On my evening dog walk tonight I circled around the pond below the studio. The light was bending in that December way through the trees. The dog seems to love the way the deer poop marinates in the cold perhaps making it even more delicious. I scooted her along and then the close, muscle-sound of big wings pulsed just above my head. I looked up and across to watch a massive bald eagle join its mate in the top of a tulip poplar. My unswept corner of the shore seemed safe, far enough from the majesty of these large birds. There was a scrap of sunlight similar to the brilliance of this small calendula flower growing with confidence while tucked in a protected corner of the garden.

13 winter 2016.jpgOnly if I move my arm a certain way,
it comes back.
Or the way the light bends in the trees
this time of year,
so a scrap of sorrow, like a bird, lights on the heart.
I carry this in my body, seed
in an unswept corner, husk-encowled and seeming safe.
But they guard me, these small pains,
from growing sure
of myself and perhaps forgetting.

--  Jane Hirshfield, "To Hear the Falling World," Of Gravity & Angels (Wesleyan University Press, 1988)

#12 winter solstice 2016

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12 winter 2016.jpgFrom December to March, there are for many of us three gardens -
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye.

-- Katherine S. White

#11 winter solstce 2016

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Thanks to so many friends who came by this weekend. My head is full of conversations, stories and questions. So many times people ask about where ideas come from and how did Warren and I get to where we are today. There are so many  ways to answer these questions. I could say I got here via my shoes or the sunsets we have shared and the landscapes we walk through, the table we eat from or perhaps, really look at our fingers.

11 winter 2016.jpgTake me to your trees. Take me to your breakfasts, your sunsets, your bad dreams, your shoes, your nouns. Take me to your fingers.

-- Margaret Atwood, Good Bones. (Virago Press Ltd September 9, 1993)

#10 winter solstice 2016

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Our cups were filled today by the many people who came by and by the many cups we in turn provided.

10 winter 2016.jpg

They know us by our lips. They know the proverb

about the space between us. Many slip.

They are older than their flashy friends, the glasses.

They held water first, are named in scripture.


Most are gregarious. You'll often see them

nestled in snowy flocks on trestle tables

or perched on trolleys. Quite a few stay married

for life in their own home to the same saucer,


and some are virgin brides of quietness

in a parlour cupboard, wearing gold and roses.

Handless, chipped, some live on in the flour bin,

some with the poisons in the potting shed.


Shattered, they lie in flowerpot, flowerbed, fowlyard.

Fine earth in earth, they wait for resurrection.

Restored, unbreakable, they'll meet our lips

on some bright morning filled with loving kindness.

--Gwen Harwood, "Cups"

# 9 winter solstice 2016

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Getting ready for our open studio this weekend - hope you can stop by...

09 winter 2016.jpg
cwf-Dec-2016 text-600px-email.jpg

#8 winter solstice 2016

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We have been hustling to get our gallery looking spiffy for our open studio this weekend. Many photos were taken and pots were carried up and down the stairs for better light and final placement. As the sun came shining in our windows I remembered making many of these pieces earlier in the fall when I had long studio sessions egged on by the voice and energy of the singer Sharon Jones blasting on my studio speakers. She passed away of pancreatic cancer November 18 I am so sorry to say. She was a burst of light, energy, and rhythm even in the darkest of moments. I love so many of her songs, but today I especially loved listening to her version of Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land.

08 winter 2016.jpg"When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me."

--From This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie

#7 winter solstice 2016

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After hurricane Sandy we moved Warren's mother from Long Island to  assisted living here in Warrenton, Virginia. Warren visited her every day and I stopped by most days. She loved clementines and we would try to leave a few in her room for snacks. Often I would visit before I went to teach my class at the Corcoran. She was always happy to see me and she would ask, "are you the one who brings me the oranges." I would tell her that Warren and I supply her with oranges and other snacks. After my short visit I would excuse myself, telling her I had to leave to go teach my class. And she said to me, "Oh you teach? My daughter-in-law is a teacher too."

07 winter 2016.jpgAll night while the rain fell
the dark valley heard in silence
the silent valley did not remember
you were asleep beside me
while the rain fell all around us
I listened to you breathing
I wanted to remember
the sound of your breath
but we lay there forgetting
asleep and awake
forgetting a breath at a time
while the rain went on falling around us
W.S. Merwin, "The Sound of Forgetting," Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

#6 winter solstice 2016

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When my brothers and I were clearing out my parents' loft after they died we found a large beautiful African mud cloth. I did not have a specific memory of it, but my parents had instilled a love of the aesthetic of this fabric in my heart. My oldest brother fabricated one memory of the cloth while later I found a photo of my mother and toddler brother in New Jersey with the cloth hanging in the background. I sent a copy to my daughter who then made a painting of it which hangs in our house. The memory of the pattern, the looseness of the marks, and the mix of imagination and memory keep my hands feeling in the dark for the next photo.

06 winter 2016.jpg"Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original... it is a continuing act of creation," pioneering researcher Rosalind Cartwright wrote in distilling the science of the unconscious mind.

#5 winter solstice 2016

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My hands were full as my foot scootched the door of the studio closed and I realized there were no lights on in either the studio or the house. There was that moment when I was afraid of the dark. It was the moment before I could recognize the difference between tree and sky, or driveway and grass. It was the instant before I could distinguish the drudgery of clearing the piles of packing materials from the clarity of isolating the new pots. This struggle with the dark is what drives my attention towards the shortness of light and to track its beauty and understand the nuance of its opposite.
05 winter 2016.jpgangel

I suppose

I'm afraid

of forever

I close

my eyes

& it's intense

it's beginning

inside me

I'm trying

to clear the deck

to get to


yawning simplicity

it's something


in the dark

how many times

could I

move the dot

back to

hear him say

there was

so much

more of it

& there is

will you love

me forever

for this

my simple


my fear of the

dark gives

me something

to say

it descends

& I wake

each glimpse

like a tiny

star of
the other


when I

was alive

--Eileen Myles

#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"

#3 winter solstice 2016

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I wanted to draw into residue iron marks on sheets of cotton and I wished I could call up my Dad. I envisioned using crayons on the fabric and I imagined that he would have some interesting suggestion of material or approaches. Crayons were one of his special materials. Instead I had to invent my own roads. I could work from the well worn memory of corduroy and the Crayola crayons of my childhood and cross new edges into my own adult solutions.

03 winter2016.jpg"I kept inventing new roads

between the wales of corduroy

or were they rows of fields I traveled?--

All the distances to get away from--

it was then as now--

mere edges to cross."

--Diane Glancy, from "It Was Then," DIAGRAM (no. 9.5

#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


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This page is an archive of entries from December 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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