I’m thinking about tea pots all the time. Why? No doubt, my recent visit to “Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational,” has a lot to do with it. There I had the opportunity to attend Akira Satake’s amazing two day workshop on the beauty of imperfection. I watched him make tea cups, tea pots and Chawans with the skill of the master that he is. I listened to his philosophy, which is so very akin to to the heart of what and why I have my hands in clay every day. Couple that with the one piece in the Perspectives Gallery that really spoke to me, a diminuitive and primitive ancient chinese tea pot, and I can begin to see how I came to be steeped in ideas that are now manifesting as these pots. My challenge? As ever, to stay true to how the clay speaks to me in my hands. This means balancing as much tactile-spiritual clay work as I feel is imperitive to my soul with as much technique as I feel gives me paths to form.
Let me explore this a bit more. There are plenty of classes, lessons and utubes to show me point by point how to construct a ceramic tea pot. There are numerous variations of handbuilt tea pots, from which I could choose ( or adapt) a pattern to make my vessel. But my goal has never been to follow a pattern and achieve precise results. My goal, really, is to find how the clay and my soul best spend time together, and, at the same time, to learn as many techniques with clay as I can, to throw both of these eneavors into, say, a tea pot, to simer and steep, and then to see what happens. It is a mysterious process. To some degree, it reminds me of how yoga poses can elicit emotional and spiritual growth. Yet, you do the work of learning and practicing the poses without really knowing exactly how your soul work will be accomplished. You practice without aim. You practice because it feel right to you to do so. It calls to you.
Clay has become my yoga. My meditation. My spiritual practice. My connection to the earth.
There is also the ongoing, primary thread of deeply honoring the beauty inherent in how imperfectly we live as incarnated beings. I don’t try to make my tea pots as perfectly tea pot-like as I can. That’s not me. Those of you who know me know my simultaneously deep, painful and ultimately joyful experience of imperfection and my commitment to self expression. So these tea pots i make are one of a kind, a bit odd, unusual, and (at least this is my intent and my experience of them), sweet.
I call these pots: sweet tea
As I have aged, I have become more appreciative of the vessel that is my body. As time and illness and injury have each taken its toll on my physical vessel, I have come to regard my body as an imperfect, wonderous miracle. It is with kinder eyes that I see myself now: lumps, bumps, bulges. I can feel how hard my heart works, scarred though it is, to supply enough oxygen rich blood to get me up a short set of stairs or across the street. It is an effort. I notice that. I appreciate it. I’m thankful for it.
Conversely, as a young woman, I led a busy and very physical life. Working. Raising children. Engaging in my favorite spiritual past times: hiking, swimming, kayaking, walking. The list goes on and on. I enjoyed using my body and I demanded a lot of it. In significant ways, I took my youth, my beauty and my health for granted. I was far to busy to THINK about it. When I was still, I was in nature, thinking about oneness and connection. I felt a great kinship with the land, the sea and the sky. That meant a lot to me. But I did not fully appreciate the vessel that allowed me to BE.
I imagine that my son and my husband, both of whom have had to contend with severe physical challenges, have long been more aware of their vessels. Imperfection, physical imperfection, was and is something that they have to confront in every instance that they live and breathe in this world. I will venture to say that I bet they never take their bodies for granted. But those of us with fully functional bodies usually do. Until we age or until something goes wrong.
Rumi says there are a hundred ways to kiss the ground. My way is through clay. I make clay vessels, one of a kind, unique. Each is meant to be a meditation on the beauty inherent in imperfection. Invite me into your story and let me make a vessel in honor of your beauty.
Clay in my hands makes me happy. Specifically, red georgia clay, dug straight up from the earth, right here in my state. This clay has body, has substance, has something to teach me. keeping my hands in this clay, forming, shaping, co-creating, keeps me close to the earth. Those of you who know me will remember that I love the ocean, love the Maine coast, love swimming, hiking, kayaking. When I lived in Maine, when I was younger and healthy, the land was my true companion and my joy. Now I lead a quieter life, a city life, a southern life, a life with health challenges. Balancing my fond memories of other years, other joys in other places, is my discovery of art, of making things and of the great joy of Georgia clay in my hands.