Gratitude and Generosity

Deep-Winter is here.  Solstice long nights pull us deeper, and the moments of daylight seem precious and sweet.  The long dark nights bring colder days, lower hazy light, and ample time for reading and reflection in the evenings and early mornings.  There are at least three books in mid-read today, one by the bedstand, one by the couch, and one by the tree.  But my favorite part of this time of year is the opportunity to reflect into the past year, and set intentions into the next.

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I’ve been considering Gratitude during this past Autumn, and have found myself getting irritated.  I’ve noticed that we tend to focus on how wonderful it is that I have everything I need, that I have access to things I’d like, that I have love and friends, and on and on, usually about Me.  But eventually, I stumbled upon a few thoughts that shifted the focus.  The practice of Gratitude is the beginning.  Moving forward, Gratitude can lead to Generosity.  If I am so full of gratitude for everything, let it spill over, and move into Generosity.

Now that is something I can dig into.  Or at least I’m trying, beginning, starting to explore the deeper meanings of Generosity.  There is the line about building a bigger table if you have more than you need.  That’s one way.  Or being conscientious about what to do with leftovers or used items.  Giving to those who have less.  Being kind when one could choose otherwise.  There are so many ways….and I have so much more to explore.

But Generosity also brings me to asking myself if I can take less.  So often, we ask those that have more to give more, but what about taking less?  And let me tell you, there are many ways here, too, and I have only begun to contemplate and explore.  But the thought rings true for me. How about you?

And what does this have to do with ceramics?  With pottery? With being an artist living a creative life?  Oh so much.  I can’t even begin to say where these thoughts will lead specifically, but I can say that I am sitting with the complexity of what it means to be a maker of things in a time when we have too many things.  I ask myself how I can be a better steward of my property and my materials, how I can create a more meaningful connection with the clay that I create with, and how my studio and practice can be more connected to the land that it sits on. How can I continue to link into a creative community that holds these concepts as core values, and introduce others to these ways of questioning and making?

So in this Deep Winter, I welcome you to celebrate with me in all the ways that we love to celebrate, but also contemplate, go deeper, ask questions, and join me beyond Gratitude, in Generosity.

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Holding the Pose

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There are hundreds of poses that we hold each time we make something by hand, from beating egg whites to a soft peak with an egg whip and a copper bowl, to trimming the foot on a wet clay bowl with a favorite Dolan trimming tool.  These poses become meditations, positions that we hold over and over again, hundreds and thousands of times in our lives, and can be moments of pause, relaxation, meditation, or moments of strength and power, locking into the habit with strong intention.

At best, these positions of familiarity are moments that I can relax into, recognizing that I have been here before, and that each time I make these moves, I am the same person, and I am a different person.

Years ago, Jack Troy and I spoke about making things, and how some folks tend towards the Guppies version of production, and others towards the Elephants.  The Elephants produce one offspring at a time, and the incubation rate is quite long and slow.  The Guppies produce many, many offspring, do it often, and even eat some of them to survive themselves (akin to recycling of my own work?).  While I don’t think that I’m consistently on one end or the other of this spectrum, probably most often towards the middle, the realization of how familiar these hand positions have become points closer to Guppies than to Elephants.

Yet every time, the bowls are a little different. Siblings of their current batch, cousins to the ones who came before.  We are always changing and growing, taking in new ideas and influences.  Thank goodness.

But my hands….my hands and shoulders and core muscles remember, and relax, revisiting again and again the left hand fingers barely touching the rim, the right pinkie finding the balance, the left thumb connecting both hands, and my eyes in soft focus.

Returning to the roots….

Time passes, pots spin off the wheel, water ebbs and flows…the Potomac River is spring-low again, and daily walks remind me how the subtle shifts, things we hardly notice, add up slowly to make the big changes. We age, islands erode, friendships deepen, and interests change. Yet we revisit certain places, friendships, habits….again and again, over time.  So, the erosion of time brings me back to the computer, to decide how it is we continually make the tiny choices of how we present to the rest of the world.

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The down-time…an important ingredient in being in touch with who we are, what we believe, and the directions we are looking.  The pots I make are decidedly different from the ones I made three years ago, at the time of my last blog post.  The way I approach clay has shifted.  My take on the wood, the kiln, the studio process has slowed way down, with more eyes and hands, and less automatic actions.  The Potomac River, Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal, and this little piece of home-land have been part of that shift. The pooch and the partner, other parts.

 

So stick with me.  There is more to come.  The exploration continues….

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Spring into yourself

Thanks for the Willy Wonka, Style Rookie...

“We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.”  Say it out loud.  Say it again.  Go about your day reminding yourself regularly, and do it again tomorrow.  Be who you are, fully, magnificently, even mildly at first.  It gets easier with practice, and like Willy, plenty of time alone to develop just exactly who you are.   Say it one more time.  Good.

Monday morning ice and tea

Advice to sink in slowly, on this icy, rainy, winter day.  Slow down; drink tea.  Make it in a teapot.  Take a moment, while drinking tea, to look at the teapot look at your cup.  Really look. Are you looking? Consider what you see.  Consider the memories you already have of these things, and the memories you are making right now.  Enjoy.

Advice to Sink in Slowly: Designers Share Wisdom with First-Year Students in Poster Series