Pottery Love

Pottery Love

 

As I sit here in the hot car waiting for a late ferry- (you must never be impatient if you live on an island)- I pull out my boxes (yes, boxes) of homemade pottery and can’t stop holding and marveling at the surfaces, the colours, the specks of gold and blues. These are mugs  that I made with my own two hands!

 I hope nobody sees me trace my finger over the tiny flower or the smudgy outline of black birds.

Why can’t I put them down..is it because they are so beautiful? No. They are bottom heavy and dripping with too many layers of glaze. The mugs are a hodgepodge of styles from sgraffitto- a scratched in pattern that makes very striking black and white pottery- to stamped flowers, starfish ( of course) and birds.

I can’t keep my hands off of these misshapen cylinders, the mistakes hidden ( not so cleverly) beneath a glittering copper raku finish.

And yet. I turn my little- what could it be, a wooden spoon holder? A pen holder? I hold them  in my hands one by one, unable to put them down.

My teacher said on the first day of class- –that clay is honest. I think what he meant was that there is no way to cheat it… you have to be patient, weigh out your clay, work it carefully, not too wet, not too dry. And if you have ugly work, that is thick rimmed, with god awful colours it is because you are a beginner, there is no hiding this fact. All the beautiful pottery we use on a day to day basis-these pieces from potters are the ones who kept at it to make those lovely shapes, comfortable to hold and to drink from or eat our bowls of popcorn from. 

And if I get better at it, if I do carry on with it— and I think I will, because I am caught in it’s spell of wedging and molding and waiting and glazing and waiting some more… then I will get better and maybe my next load won’t have glazes that are too thick, or lumpy- each time, little by little the forms will improve.

I will let you know when I get better….. Honest.

 

 

 

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Birthdays Are For the Birds

Birthdays Are For the Birds

 

How has it been a year since the last birthday suit special? Birthdays to me these days are not exactly a time to celebrate but a time to reflect and be sentimental about my life. What have I accomplished? Where am I headed?

I am taking a very intensive ceramics course at VIU. Yesterday I was in the studio for over eight hours, not including the commute. So when I woke up today I forgot it was my birthday! I forgot to sit outside in solitude and listen to the birds like I used to do as a child. I must have been an odd child, come to think of it. Just recently in class we had to make ocarinas, little clay flutes. I remember my father gave me one as gift when I was a child. Was I seven or eight years old? It was a little flute in the shape of a bird. I used to sit on a step-ladder in the back yard, to be closer to the tree tops and play that flute, I think it only had one or two notes… I was trying to communicate with the birds.

I really haven’t come that far from those days. Not too long ago, as I was taking out the compost, I heard a bird calling out in quite a complicated tune. I whistled to it, and it answered back! I was so excited! My dream had come true! I could  finally communicate with another species!

For years ( as a child) I was  obsessed with catching a live bird. I had never thought out what I would do after I caught one. But believe it or not, one day I actually did catch a baby blue jay in my hands. I guess it was opportunity meets preparation. I had spent months stalking birds, they were so close, yet so fast! They knew what I was up to and darted away every time! This was a time before too much technology, when children would spend their days outside hiding underneath shrubbery, crawling around in the dirt, daring each other to eat unknown berries …you know who you are! I was advised right away to let the baby bird go of course. But my dream did come true. Here I am at my birthday wishing intently to catch a bird ( or maybe I am wishing for a mood ring ( see picture below)… see? Make a wish and try for it. It may actually come true.

 

Book Review- The Stranger in the Woods The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Book Review- The Stranger in the Woods The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

I have just finished a very compelling biography written by Michael Finkel- The Stranger in the Woods- The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. It is a fascinating account of the life of Chris Knight, a man who made the choice to leave his home town and family to live alone in the woods for almost thirty years. To survive he stole food from the cabins and camps within walking distance from his hidey hole in the forest. He never started a fire, for fear of being discovered and only traveled at night and often in the rain when he thought he would least likely be spotted.

Knight is described as a lover of books– he is well versed in the Tao Te Ching. He enjoys stories like Robinson Crusoe or war history books. He read whatever stolen books he could lay his hands on. He rigged up an antennae and listened to late night talk radio, classic rock and classical music. Oddly enough he enjoyed listening to Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond. Because he was so elusive, he was dubbed the North Pond Hermit or sometimes the Hungry Man.

 

There are also many interesting tidbits in this book on the history of hermits.  In Europe during the Middle Ages the people who wanted to live away from society  were called anchorites- they were often bricked into tiny dark cells and were taken care of by the church. Pursuers are explained as people who escape human contact to write, philosophize or create art. Finkel peppers this story with some scientific explanations  as to why some people may be more prone to avoiding society- there are studies that prove genetics could be part of the factor. Low levels of oxytocin mixed with high quantities of the hormone vasopresin may cause a person to need less human interactions.

I felt the author was suggesting that people like Knight are not a total anomaly- every other country seems to have a place or name for these kinds of people. It was also interesting to read about the completely different reactions the local residents had about Knight. Some hated him, while others were more accepting. One  enterprising man tried to leave him a pen and paper to offer him food or anything else he required so that he wouldn’t have to steal. Although the word hermit in our culture has a bad connotation to it- after reading this book I have a new perspective on hermits. Now I will think of someone who may have an intellectual bent and a close commune with nature.

One of the best insights into Knights soul ( I think) is when Knight explains how he decided it was best not to have a pet, so he wouldn’t have to compete for food with it. Instead he reveals how he was very fond of a shelf mushroom that grew slowly along side his campsite.

This book is a gentle account of a man who knew that the only peace he could find for himself was to be left  completely alone in nature. A feat that seems close to impossible in our modern day world.

Click below for one of the many songs about Chris Knight

http://wickedfunny.tv/maine-music-video-we-dont-know-the-north-pond-hermit/

Want to understand Chris Knight better? Here is a link to The Tao Te Ching

http://www.with.org/tao_te_ching_en.pdf

Why Did the Octopus Eat Its Own Leg?

Why Did the Octopus Eat Its Own Leg?

I always wonder what I look like- gazing at a painting…

Last week I orchestrated an overnight trip to Vancouver. It was hard to get motivated to leave the comfort of my own home. I always have too many excuses to feel like leaving the island to go to a busy city and spend too much money on BC ferries just to go see art. Such as; my life is too busy, I have too many projects on the go, what about the dog, the gardening, etc etc.?

So it was with a great amount of effort that we hauled ourselves off to see Takashi Murakami’s, The Octopus Eats its Own Leg at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

I know what you are thinking, that it sounds like the beginning of a joke that a fourth grader might tell you standing around the monkey bars–Why did the octopus eats its own leg? The name drew us in I’ll admit. Not only children are intrigued by octopi.

My husband dropped me at the front doors to line up early on a Monday morning… which turned out to be a great and uncrowded time to visit. Only a smattering of school classes were sitting around the large bright paintings, sketching and listening to their guides. 

There is nothing like the Vancouver Art Gallery to inspire you!  We stopped midway for a break to eat eggs and toast at a pricey cafe across the street and then went back for more. Was it worth all the trouble? Yes it was! Besides being an enjoyable way to spend the day, these pieces sparked many new ideas for us to make new art projects! More and more stuff we must now make, on top of our other millions of art projects that we are in the process of.  Soon we will have so many going on that we will truly never be able to leave the island again to see any more art gallery shows. We will have to start our own gallery- and then I we won’t have to leave to go on an expensive trip to Vancouver to go see an art show.

The circle of life, I suppose. My significant other spent the whole ferry trip home watching You tube videos on screen printing after watching a video on how many of these large panel installations were created. I myself am starting a ceramics course next week and hope that my sculptures will turn out just like Mr. Murakami’s. See below.

 

After thoroughly enjoying the exhibit, we hunted out all the other art packed corners of the art gallery. We found a very interesting German print exhibit.

Heck, we even visited good ol Emily Carr…Is it only us that says, Emily Carr? No way, no more Emily Carr and then we go anyways and still enjoy it.  She’s like an old friend  with her dark green forests and strange Van Gogh like landscapes. How do you pronounce Van Gogh anyways?

Watching Portrait Artist of the Year I notice the English hosts say Van Gogh  rhymes with cough.

See how many new things you learn from my blog?!

Besides getting inspiration from visual art, I often find that if I read only a few pages of amazing writing this also creates a chain reaction of creativity.

So go on. Get out there all you makers. Get makin’

 

 

Memoir- Born A Crime

Memoir- Born A Crime

Reading in my nubby bathrobe

Lucky for me I keep finding memoirs that are un -put -downable. This week I have thoroughly enjoyed the memoir Born A Crime –Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.

I realize I have been limiting myself to women’s stories, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was completely drawn into this book. It is a story of a young man growing up in South Africa during the tail end of Apartheid- a tough subject that he manages to explain with small  humorous essays. He starts from the beginning when he is a small child and his mother is always chasing after him and once throws him out of a moving minibus. He is still running as a young man, to escape the rage of a violent stepfather.

I laughed and cried all the way through this book.  He explains how when they had a really tough patch in their lives their family had to eat Mopane worms that he explains are ” spiny, brightly coloured caterpillars the size of your finger—they have black spines that prick the roof of your mouth as you’re eating them.”

I enjoyed learning about all the eleven different languages in South Africa which he describes as the Tower of Babel. He also explains how difficult it was for him to live as a child who is half white and half black in a country where it is deemed illegal to  “have illicit carnal intercourse between Europeans and natives.” This was called the Immorality Act of 1927- thus the title of this book- Born a Crime. I had to wonder for a long time why Trevor’s mother would have chosen to have a child under such difficult circumstances, then I realize perhaps it was her small rebellion against a whole regime.

Trevor’s description of his mother was the most compelling part of this story for me. How going to church every Sunday was an escape for her- and no matter how Trevor tried to get out of going to church, his mother made it a non negotiable part of their lives.

The author explains how he was always hoping his mother would leave her abusive relationship. Later in life he realizes how it is not such a simple a thing to escape domestic violence, especially in a country where beating your wife is not considered a criminal offense. This part was frustrating for me to read, and I noted that this was a difficult point for the author to grapple with as well.

Trevor explains that although he grew up in a world of violence, it was his mother’s strong influence that he believes set him on a different path. I loved his mother from beginning to end. The author cleverly weaves his stories in with hers in a loving and honest way.

Men are what their mothers made them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

http://www.trevornoah.com/

 

 

Book Review- The Wild Oats Project

Book Review- The Wild Oats Project

I really enjoy a good true story, especially if it is well written. And even sometimes if it is not! The little library on Gabriola Island is quite well-stocked in the biography section where I tend to hang out quite a bit. I remember hearing something positive about The Wild Oats Project so I took it home for the weekend. Wow! Can Robin Rinaldi write a story, and a very racy one at that. It is a very intimate and open account of one woman’s quest for passion in her life. Something that she feels is not in the marriage that she is in. It takes her on many adventures of the sensual kind. It is open and honest and doesn’t hide much, such as her  aching desire to have a baby and the resentment she feels when her husband gets a vasectomy. She delves into the violence in her childhood and how it has affected her. She does it in a fashion where she doesn’t come across as bitter but reflects on how it had an impact on the relationships in her life.

Rinaldi is a professional editor and you can certainly tell by the perfect prose in this little gem of a memoir. Outta the way Fifty Shades of Grey– this a real woman’s account of her quest for love and passion. Want an insiders take on orgasmic meditation and urban sex communes? Who doesn’t? After reading the last page, my thoughts were boy this would be a great book club selection. So much to discuss about women and their sexuality. All you book clubs out there take note-this book is from 2015 which means -no holds! I did also notice that there is a great discussion guide for this memoir.

After you finish reading this book, take a look at who it is dedicated to. You will get a tear in your eye, I guarantee it.

Click on the link below to find it in Goodreads.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18525795-the-wild-oats-project

 

Easter Weekend

Easter Weekend

Every time Easter weekend rolls around my husband and I can’t help but get sentimental about our first fight. It was Easter weekend and we were visiting Antigua, Guatemala. The streets were teeming with people ready to watch the parade of the Passion of Christ. Men dressed up with white head coverings to look like the Romans caring crosses for the very busy and exciting Semana Santa or holy week festivities. There were flower vendors everywhere selling fragrant bouquets to tourists and locals.  I recall my Spanish was quite rudimentary, so when I bought a bouquet of flowers the woman selling the flowers said something that seemed to be commending me for being a good  Catholic girl. I was confused about why she seemed so happy to sell me the flowers. I soon learned that I wasn’t to keep them for myself! I think I was to follow the procession and lay them down on a cross- out of respect. I still feel ashamed to this day! AH, youth.

I will never forget how the narrow roads of Antigua had decorations of vibrant fresh flowers in complex designs along the cobblestone streets.

As backpackers in the early nineties, we had to rely on cashing traveler’s cheques to live. We didn’t have credit cards in those days, no cell phones either- imagine! To survive from day to day we needed to find banks to cash our cheques and live on real money. I recall sending my beloved on the errand to go to the bank. It was the Thursday before Easter weekend. I was busy packing up the hotel room that cost us a mere dollar a night. The room was very rudimentary- no windows in our room, just a cut out window-shaped hole to let air in during the day. At night we just battened down the hatches like we were living in a stable, bare-bones living for sure, but it was very economical for us young travelers. We were trying to travel for three months on our meager savings, with hopefully a bit more to tide us over when we returned to Canada.

My beloved came back shortly afterward and I said surprised, why are you back so soon? He replied I didn’t’ want to wait because the line up was so long.  I  worriedly said that’s because the banks won’t be open for another four days and we are out of money! We then hustled back to the bank but by then it was too late. Everything was shut down for the upcoming holiday.  He then persuaded me to go to an expensive hotel for an all you can eat buffet, the only kind of place that would cash our traveler’s cheques. The cost of the meal was more than ten days of our normal traveling would cost. ( I really can’t recall the amount but I am trying to make a dramatic point) I was so upset that I remember we walked on different sides of the street from each other, not talking, as we walked home. What bothered me the most was that I was worried that I had fallen in love with a fool.

The funny thing about this story is that not a whole lot has changed. We have this same fight but in different ways. We still argue about wasting money. I am generally more careful about our finances.  When the family is voting on what restaurant to choose, his vote is always for an all you can eat buffet. I have trouble with overeating, so these places are not conducive to trying to eat less!

We can now joke about that weekend over twenty-five years ago… when two people had to learn to live together. A very hard lesson for couples. But I guess it worked out in the end.

How many people are lucky enough to have Easter Weekend as the anniversary of their first fight?