no postcards…

this is a long one…grab a cup of coffee and settle in… ~ Pat

beherenowthere were only 8 of us gathered in the dining room. We all introduced themselves and it turned out that one of the eight was the yoga teacher, one was the clay teacher and one was the director of the clay center.

The clay center was a dream…a huge, like polebarn type structure, that housed 20 wheels of varying kinds, pugmill, slab roller, extruder, electric kilns, numerous worktables…and there was LIGHT! Enormous sliding doors on each side of the barn that they would slide open, so that the whole structure was open to the air and light of the outdoors. A deck the length of the building on one side with tables and awnings overlooked the next building- a shelter over top of a large 3 chamber wood kiln, with wood stacked to dry along the open sides. Further down the hill on the property was another building- this housed the artists-in-residence at the facility, as well as the director’s office and the center’s library. This was all surrounded by the wood of Wisconsin…a gorgeous setting!

adamah

the clay studio at Adamah…a potter’s heaven…

We did clay and yoga thru the next few days, yoga 4 or 5 times a day- each time with a different emphasis. We worked in the clay center when weren’t eating or sleeping or doing yoga. I learned that the other participants had never potted before and that my teacher had apprenticed for a well known potter in North Carolina for 2 years- so a wide variance in skill levels. I learned some things, relaxed, walked, explored, but mostly just breathed and tried to be present in each moment.

bistro

a wonderful bistro called The Cook’s Room in downtown Dodgeville that had the greatest coffee in Wisconsin!

I had left myself 2 days to ‘bum’ at the conclusion of the retreat before I left Wisconsin to spend the 4th with family. I was told by the other retreat participants that there was an art fair in a neighboring town that I might want to check out. So off I went. The town was a tiny town. I wasn’t expecting much. >OMG< It was amazing!! It was the whole length of main street both sides and the work was juried. There was glass, and paintings, and quilts, and drawings, and prints, and mixed media, and fiber, and leather…and yes, there was pottery.

Lots of pottery! Nice handthrown pottery. I was walking back towards my car when I spied what looked like pottery by my all time favorite potter- Tony Winchester. Certain that someone was copying his work, I went in for a closer look. Oh hell yes! It WAS his stuff…and it was breathtaking. I was in awe…when the man himself came over and said ‘hi’. I was going to be so cool- none of this hero-worship stuff…after all, I was a potter too! And he was just a guy…right? Puts his pants on just like me…so when he said, “how are you today?”… all that came out of my mouth, in this strange deep garbled voice, was “I make pots.” I tried to fix it by saying that I admired him, but it was coming out in rushes of words…in the mental health world, we call it “slurred rambling pressured speech”… I bought 2 beautiful cups, and left the booth reluctantly. I almost turned around and went back to try to remedy my earlier gaff, but sadly realized that would appear stalker-like. I thought of emailing, but …really, Pat? Soothing myself by repeating “let it go…just let it go…” over and over, I made my way back to my car, clutching my 2 mugs.

MME

Me and Michaela sharing a moment on the 4th…do we look alike?

The next day I went to another small neighboring town called Mineral Point. What a beautiful town! It is filled with old old stone and brick buildings that have all been made into various shops and galleries. I walked up a street called High St, stopping in each shop and perusing. Johnston Gallery was exquisite- filled to the brim with a multitude of work! There was another shop that had a french name, and had a painting of pears on the sign. It was a double building with a fiber store on one side and an architectural salvage place on the other, just enchanting…in fact it was here that I found a framed chalkboard, with the words “be here now”. I also visited a gallery for potter Helen Story and painter Kate Bausch. Kate was there that day and we spent some time talking – she was one of the special people I met on my journey. I drove out to an old brewery that was a pottery and gallery- connected to Johnston Gallery. Tom Johnston visited with me, showed me the kiln and we talked pots for a bit.

As the sun set on my last day of bumming, I felt refreshed, and inspired. I knew that what had been missing from my life this past year was clay. I had no idea how much time I had been spending thinking and dreaming about clay when I wasn’t actually elbow deep in clay. It came to me that if I wasn’t making pots, I was firing or glazing or trimming or handling…that the cleaning of the studio before beginning a new cycle of work was a meditative activity to me…and that when I wasn’t in the studio, my mind was occupied with how to alter a glaze recipe, a new kiln design, a teapot I wanted to try to make. Being without a studio for a year was not just being without clay, it was taking a huge part of what I do, with my hands and with my creative mind, out of my life. So that was realization #1.

jjme

Journi and I taking a selfie 🙂

Realization # 2 was that I can’t live in town. I have been trying to live in town, because I love historic houses…and there are a lot of them here…in town. But I am a country girl…raised in the country, and have lived outside of town most of my life, in one place or another. Being in the woods of Wisconsin made it clear that I need space to spread out, to build a wood kiln, to dream… so a hunt for a place outside of town, with an older house and an acre or two has commenced.I think of all I learned about myself on this journey…the people I met, the work I saw, the freedom and joy of traveling alone…and i know that just like the ragtag collection of tools I took with me, I am bringing home scattered memories of a place, a flash of thought, or an idea I had…they aren’t the standard vacation souvenirs, but I am not your typical traveler…

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who ya think ur talkin to?!

“the work of art acts like another living person with whom we are conversing” ~ Anton Ehrenzweig

When was the last time you had a project so deep in your soul that it took on a life of its own?  I have had this happen to me a few times, the most notable being  several years ago.  Being a production potter for years- being used to making every piece look alike- it took some doing for me to get ‘looser’ in my throwing techniques.  Yet whenever I would go thru Ceramics Monthly or other art magazines, the pieces that i admired and even drooled over were pieces that had a gestural quality to them, pieces that had tension and edge…grit.  But looking at all of my little pitchers, lined up like nuns, in the studio…they were prim and proper, no edge…no grit.  And really, I myself am not a prim and proper sort (“omg,” you are saying,”…really!?”).  I was at a loss as to how to begin…how to give myself permission to not make every pot the same…tight and controlled…  but the beginning…it happened –in the most hilarious way…

when we lived on the farm, I used to throw pots in the basement of our house.  Dean, my husband, had put up concrete blocks and 2×10 boards and I would line up pot after pot on these boards as they were thrown.  We had a cat, Kadafy (named after the terrorist of the time), who liked to hang out with me walking the ledge above the pottery shelves, or sometimes sitting on the seat beside me.  Kadafy was a very good studio cat!  As you know, pots are very soft clay when they are first formed, and have to sit out and firm up a bit to handle, to cut off of bats, to trim and sign.  I had this bunch of lidded jars sitting on shelves, probably 3 or 4 dozen innocently waiting…I was off doing other things for the afternoon.  When i returned in the evening to trim these pots, i found a half dozen of them in various forms of mush.  On closer inspection, i spied kitty paws in the clay…it appeared that the cat had hopped down from the ledge and landed on a soft clay pot, and in an effort to recover her footing, had hopped to the next pot and the next and so on, squashing them as she went.  When semi-firm clay is squashed, it makes a farting noise as the air escapes and leaves a pretty good fingerprint impression.  As i stood there gazing at the pots, they told the story, and soon I was laughing so hard i was crying, imagining my poor self assured Kadafy, scrambling from pot to pot, as they disintegrated beneath her feet like landmines.

A seed of an idea began to grow(it took a few years to put this into words)…people go thru life encountering different experiences.  Some biblical references consider people as vessels…like pots.  Upon further spiritual investigation, I felt a divine leading- explaining that as people travel thru their lives, they are marked…marked by things that happen to them, by people that they meet along the way, both good and bad…and they are marked by things that they do to themselves…and they may be marked by their maker, if they choose that. Marks can be decorative, or scars…they can be internal or external…marks can hinder how you move-emotionally or physically, or they can make your moves appear lyrical and rhythmic…

This concept blew me away… helped me to look at imperfect pots in a whole new way….imperfect people too.

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