There is a story that I heard this year from Robin Wall Kimmerer (member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY, and Author of the beloved book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’), and it resonated with me in unexpected ways, continuing to evolve and unfold throughout this unconventional year. The story is the prophecy of the Seventh Fire. I first heard her reference this in the context of understanding time, and how in Anishinaabe prophecy, this is the time of the People of the Seventh Fire. We are standing at a fork in the road, with one direction being a blackened trail of cinders, and the other being a green and lush path calling to our bare feet. It seems that we would know which path to step foot on next, but we can’t. Before we can move forward into the green and vibrant path, we have to circle back, and pick up all of the important things that have been dropped. We have to remember and reclaim what has been lost.
I’ve thought about her story often this year, especially as so much has been on pause, and we’ve all had more time to ourselves than usual. I’ve found some less-trodden trails and edgelands to explore, but I’ve also spent time intentionally considering what I’ve ‘dropped’ over the years that may be integral to my moving forward, both personally and culturally.
Some of the things that I’ve re-found have been tangible, like stress-learning clawhammer banjo during this most recent political election time, bringing live music back into my hands. I’ve found connections to traditions extending from both Scotland and Italy that have led to exploring fermenting wild beers from the plants and weeds that surround me, and tending wild plants in more conscientious ways. Other elements have been less physical, like meditating with the ‘Waking Up’ app, integrating the many parts of consciousness into my days, and reconnecting in conversation with friends from different places and times. (sometimes involving music!)
All of this ‘looking back’ energy has brought me to consider the collection of ceramic pieces that I have in the studio and in the house that follow my history in clay.
From my undergraduate years at Indiana University, to my current studio in West Virginia, there are pieces and recipes, motifs and forms that are symbolic to a specific time period, but also ones that echo over and over again, following along, popping up no matter where I’m working or what type of work I’m making.
Each of the “Pots With Stories” pieces are accompanied by a story, following along a path, exploring their voice in the context of the time and place they were made, but also their relation to today, and their potential influence moving forward.
Earlier this year, I realized that while my studio sales had disintegrated, this time would be the ideal time for a sabbatical. After 12 strong years of working in my West Virginia studio, I could use a break, a time to recharge, and to thoughtfully consider my path moving forward. Many questions have hung in the air around me, but one that has resurfaced over and over again is this:
What does it mean to practice a post-oil sense of self and culture?
How do I move with my studio practice into a 21st Century post-oil culture? How do I square my use of mined materials with my urge to scale down? Knowing that we need less, not more, what is the role of a maker, a creative, an artist, moving forward? How do I transition my making to something that aligns my creative and core values? (thank you to the original question from Breakdown Break Down Press)
So far, there are few specific answers, just lots and lots of questions. But I have found that part of the solution, like the prophecy of the People of the Seventh Fire, involves circling back around, taking stock of what skills and values hold true, what forms and techniques resonate as I continue forward, what stories and songs need to be in my bundle as we begin to consider our first steps onto that green and luscious path. So far, there’s some new clawhammer banjo tunes, some generous plants and their seeds tucked away for the winter, and time standing in the creek as often as possible.
How to Buy Pottery:
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