For three months I have carefully tended to a large, gravy lover supportive, dinnerware set. Each piece hand painted with invocation of 3 Wishes. They may look simple, but they quietly took much tending. Plates are notorious crackers when drying and warpers in firing, they need a bat system that I don't have in our home studio but sweetly had access to in the community. It took a month just for them to release from the bats before continued controlled moisture balanced slow drying. I looove this naturally dark chocolate clay, it is more costly but oh so luscious! Honestly I've been fully smitten the entire journey.
For this past week I have spent a fair amount of time in pant-breathing tear-jerking pain, medicated just to get across the room, reliant on others to ... well.. do pretty much everything for me. I had missed my two covid compliant shifts at the community studio but knew these plates were finally Done. Yesterday I was able to tenderly, and with help, manage to pick them up.
I saw it right away.
Small coloured drops that I did not add.
Just on one.
The kilnmaster told me glaze from a neighbouring piece splashed on during the final firing, and gently reiterated what most experienced potters and ceramists advise, "We learn to not get attached until they are finished." It's generally considered a noob thing to do, to stir up close feelings for a piece. We are encouraged to not try and save a thing as it begins to fail. Just start again. Articles are even written about it, how well ceramists end up dealing with failure in life due to the uncountable opportunities for disaster along the way to Done in their craft.
My sunken feeling reply, "I get attached to each piece. I just grieve them too."
Sweetly she consoled with noting how she knew I had put my heart into them.
Me, mostly to myself,
"I put my heart into everything"
And I do. Or I try to anyway.
Not in some wild emotional roller coaster of the ill placed sleeve bearing sort, but crafting a life that I can put my heart into what I am doing, where I am, who I'm with. Unless it is an unsafe or wholly unwise situation where true harm is a potential, I don't want to stay detached while waiting to see how things turn out in the end nor pendulum swing into good vibes only, love & light, forgive & forget bypassing of the raw and the real either. I want to live as a full human creature while I'm here. I don't buy things thinking about deprecation values or trade-in ability. I use all the good china. I take the plastic covers off. I step into stories with both feet and listen as if it were my own. My shirt will be wet from tears and my face lined from smiling. It is all absolutely both deeply heart mending and heart breaking.
Stepping consciously into any relationship calls for respect and reverence, especially when you know the interdependence may be decades long. There is a manner of approach and a tone to set in the first visit. Set as a foundation for carrying through the beautiful days, the turbulent currents that toss us about, and the darkest nights of the soul too. A foundation that holds the rub and friction between and anchors into a knowing of Being, working, and creating *Together*
When it comes to cars, washing machines, cooking stoves, or potter's wheels it is no different. Stones, trees, pets, and people it is no different. Some baulk at such anthropomorphism and foster a belief of inanimate "other", yet an animistic lifestyle has been the norm for most of our human existence. Even traced through our art to 40,000 years ago. There is an essence to all things, and that essence can be communicated with. Relationships fostered and tended to. A reciprocity to be maintained.
So sitting for the first time at this new wheel, knowing their reputation for longevity, knowing how many hours we will spend together, knowing the intention is to co-create ritual wares and intentional ceramics where even a cereal bowl might have a medicinal or harmonizing affect ~ to do so with ceremony was appropriate.
It was simple. potent. personal.
The fire was lit, herbs were burned, my medicine bundle and heart engaged, introductions were made and exchanges occurred.
Then 3 small cauldrons for our work here at the Selkie Sanctuary began their creation journey.
Thank you for witnessing and tender holding of walking in these soul-filled ways. May friends in all their forms speak with you too.
* I've been posting heaps on Instagram over at @selkie_sanctuary if you are into hyperlapse videos of mud being thrown, giddy kiln discoveries, and following along as ceremonial ceramics are created.
It's a good way to put your name in early to adopt a piece too
My bubble buddy, and new friend at the fine arts centre has watched me patch up "clay fails" and creatively tend to mishaps that would make most potters cringe and scoff. Generally the idea of being so attached to a piece that one tries to save it is relegated to noobs who could use practice in 'just make another' don't waste your time and learn through the doing.
Most serious potters tend to toss imperfect greenware into the Reclaim Bucket, or smash Bisqued and Glazed pieces into the ceramic graveyard of mosaic hopefuls and archeologist dreams. I create with intention but keep very close the knowing the life of a piece may be found short at any moment. But I can't say it is non-attachment, for surely it isn't.
One swift movement, jerk of a hand, hidden air bubble, too hot and dry air too soon, too cold air too soon, a poor dip or drip, a fusion to a kiln shelf, catch of a finger nail, an exploding kiln neighbour, ripped out bottom or snapped off handle, each can spell death to a piece, and I will love each for as long as they live just the same. And just like those parts of ourselves that feel broken or dreams we thought were destined for the reclaim bucket or graveyard - sometimes we can put our perfectionism and consumer conditioning aside and love it back - again and again if we must. I remember being very small and looking closely at a plastic horse that I had, noticing how the eye paint was askew and there were chunky bits along the mould seam. I knew that no one had touched it when it was being made, no one had cared for it or noticed its details. There was a sad vacancy and I wanted to love that little horse more to make up for it somehow. I hadn't read it yet, but knew Velveteen Rabbits were real.
Perhaps that is why I hesitate to toss so easily into the reclaim bucket, why I slow-cook and hand stitch aspects of my life together. If you know me though, you know I am a strong advocate for letting things die when it is time. Perhaps surprisingly so. But some things quietly call for being loved back to life. This piece was gifted to me half a foot away from the Reclaim Bucket. As you can see, so far it has been resuscitated at least twice and it certainly isn't out of the woods yet. Some of my pieces hold this story of reclamation with them and I softly wonder if anyone might feel it.
If they don't, that is okay. I do.
I didn't hyperspeed this up because reclaiming by way of loving takes a little time - as it should.