Penland...two incredible weeks at a place like no other. Nestled, (I'm not kidding, Mapquest gets lost in all the nestling between mountains.) in the mountains of western North Carolina, it is one of the foremost craft schools in the US, hosting international and national artists to teach courses year round. As I last posted back in June, I signed up for the Figurative Ceramics class with Steve Dixon of the UK. We focused on the idea of "hero" or even "anti-hero" in our personal lives. In today's world, do we have heroes? What defines a hero? I was always a huge fan of Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman...but in reality, heroes don't always come with super powers, instead, they come with presence and the presence of mind to sit still in the insanity of daily life and the unfolding traumas. In my life, the women in my mother's family have kept me sane, they are the bumpers on life's road, keeping me pointed forward. Not wanting to make a portrait of one particular woman, the bust became my Grandmother, Mother, and Aunt Janie. Little tchotskies representing all the sisters were placed within the giant curls of what was my Grandmother's "set." (I remember her getting her her "done" once a week.) At the front of her head is a tiny dining room table with 6 chairs...the most important place in the house. In remembering the table, as a child it seemed at least 20 people could sit around it. Originally I made 8 chairs, but was told there were only 6 chairs!! It was the place we always gathered and it seemed very fitting to put it at the front.
In her hair are: mascara and lipstick, a rolling pin, a lady finger and crochet hooks, a blue spiral representing "free spirit" and chocolate chip cookies, a log cabin with a bluebird of happiness at the top, a pair of orange pumps and a wine bottle, a big red heart, a baby and rubber ducky, as well, as the vodka slush container and a sacred heart.
Around her neck is a collar of pierogies and 11 philodendron leaves for the 11 kids in the family. It seems our family centers around eating, drinking, and looking good. My biggest struggle was to find a way to represent these very strong women who's very essences are intangible but very much who they are. I think it is the struggle of any artist trying to symbolize humanity. The hardest thing I learned about this particular piece of art was this...it was only a precursor to the next version. While still working out all these ideas in my head, trying to move from what is a literal representation to one filled with symbolism of more complicated ideas, the piece was unfortunately rushed into the kiln with an even more unfortunate ending. (Insert explosion and expletives here.)While contemplating how long it would take my school district to find my face on the front page of a North Carolina newspaper accused of murdering the studio assistant, I remembered a great friend once saying, "Never get attached to your pots." I applied the same wisdom, and set about building some little houses and heart rattles ( not shown). While I didn't bring home what I expected, I did bring home a new batch of friends, great memories and lessons still revealing themselves.
Back to the present...I've been home two weeks now, and what have I been doing??? Making pots of course!! "A Fair in the Park" is coming up in September. Cake plates are always fun to make and with the food channels fussing over cakes these days, why not? Penland artists made some of the most beatiful large food servers for the caferteria buffet line. I was inspired to make a few homages to these food boats, as well as, tall vases, canister sets and casseroles and brie bakers.
I know, I know, it's 97 degrees and the humidity is dripping, who wants to think about baking?? But autumn is just a cricket's chirp away. Soon I'll be craving baked artichoke dip and wool sweaters. In the mean time, I'll keep making pots and watering the garden, and cranking up the air.