‘I spent a life thinking about porcelain but didn’t know it. I knew bits of it. It was a journey of genuine discovery, of finding the people and places who I need to understand and then going to journals and poetry and narrative and topography and objects. Of course it means it ends up fragmented and broken up and it weaves that into my own autobiography of learning how to be a potter, learning how to be a public potter. It meant that I had to be a patchwork, not a seamless narrative’
Edmund de Waal (interview for craft magazine)
What a day!
I do believe things and situations are thrown at us so we can learn and listen and possibly act or change things. These situations may well become the markings and fabric of our being.
So today I woke up wanting to do Exercise 1.2 and go for a walk to do my personal experience. I have been procrastinating and finding it hard to do things at a faster pace. Everything with this course so far is slow, with so much reflection. I woke up with a longing, a sense of missing my loved ones, even the ones physically near me. Sometimes we are all so busy that we don’t connect, we don’t stop to enjoy each other and now more than ever I am aware of how short life on earth is. We are just passing by.
So anyway, I started the day sending my brothers and sisters in Spain a short video of my garden; only because the last time we were together we were all in my garden. As I was making the video I also chose the music for the background, I chose Angie Stone ‘Wish I didn’t miss you’. In that song there is a phrase that stayed with me: ‘memories don’t live like people do’. I didn’t have much time to ponder on that phrase before I had a call from my daughter telling me that she and her boyfriend had had a car accident. Thankfully they are both ok, a little bit bruised physically and emotionally. I had just put the phone down when my friend texted me asking if I wanted to go to her mother- in-law’s, who had passed away to be with the Lord a week ago. Her sons and daughters where sorting her belongings and I was invited to see her lovely collection of sketches and linen before they found new homes, and maybe choose something pretty for myself. I couldn’t belive how blessed I was to have the privilege. I jumped at the chance, put my camera and sketch book in my bag and asked permission to take pictures and use this as my personal experience. So many strong emotions in one morning!
So far I had collected the phrase ‘Memories don’t live like people do’ the emotion of life and dread of death. With an open mind I set out not knowing what I was going to find.
Above Gill told me that Kay asked if they could plant this tree to give her privacy in her bedroom. It struck me that we sometimes are not realistic with time or maybe we live hoping we have more time. This tree hadn’t had the time to grow and give Kay her privacy. I hoped that the new people who move to the house would alow the tree to grow.
Above: A family heirloom a granddaughter clock (I believe). I wondered if the clock had been stopped when Kay passed away, thus recording important information about Kay’s story.
Above: part of Kay’s bedroom. I liked the painting on the wall. Apparently it was her wedding bouquet which she immortalised in a watercolour. I like the painting’s historic value for Kay’s family.
A beautiful family portrait.
An old tea-cosy that wasn’t looking it’s best was revamped with a new embroidery telling me how thrifty people of Kay’s generation were. There was no ‘ out with the old, in with the new’. It was more about loving items for their use and making them work.
Above and below: egg-cozies. I could see that Kay had a sence of humour.
In the conservatory there were some invaluable treasures, paintings and sketches that Kay had created. I love the careful precision of her work. Compared to my work I felt it was more controlled and planed.
This sketch is beautiful. I felt I could feel Kay’s strokes. She was obviously out and about and had no paper so used what she had at hand. I loved seeing her hand writing also revealing that she was a classical musical lover. She was obviously on holiday on lake Como in Varenna.
Finally, I came across a beautiful poem that Kay had written about herself when she was a baby. This poem belies so much. How grateful she was to God for her life, despite whatever reason her mum couldn’t nurse her when she was a baby; how Kay’s grandmother had been her main carer. Her faith, and the importance she gave it and her strong belief in the power of pray. I enjoy her neat writing which can almost tell me Kay’s personality ; gentle, sensitive, caring, controlled and empathic.
I didn’t personally know Kay (only through my friend) but I feel very privileged to have had this personal experience. I have obviously chosen items that speak to me for one reason or another. Most of the items are of sentimental value more than monetary value. I find the story that people give the item the most interesting: The strokes of one’s writing, the lines and marks of a drawing, the use of items to suit your life style, the immortalizing of a moment of time through cloth, drawing or photography.
In de Waal’s interview he says ‘The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web. That is why we must not discriminate between things. Where things are concerned there are no class distinctions’
It is true that an artist doesn’t discriminate between things and although I have never thought myself worthy of calling myself an artist I completely feel and live by the principles of de Waal’s extract in this interview. I do not discriminate between things; I find the beauty in them even if at first value they are not beautiful. The story, the meaning, the way they are used makes them beautiful and invaluable to me.
This personal experience has not only been valuable because I got an insight in Kay’s life and learnt some things about her and in turn about my friends Gill & David, whom I love dearly. But most surprisingly I learnt about myself. I learnt and now I understand how I process information and what information is important to me. I seem to be more interested in emotion and sentiment more than facts and dates. This will obviously be reflected in my work. I was reminded that I can be very impulsive in my work and delivery of the information I collect. Through looking at Kay’s work I was reminded to be more controlled. Ok I will never be totally controlled but maybe I can try to move in that direction.
While reflecting on my little journey through Kay’s home I took the bible out (as I learnt it was the making of Kay) and read 1 Peter 1:24
For” all the people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; The grass withers and the flowers fall”
I followed the exercise by drawing a floor plan of Kay’s house and placing the Photocopies of my recorded items in the order that I had found them. Telling the story of my journey.
At first I didn’t understand why I was asked to draw a map of my journey, I soon realised that the point of this exercise is to see the importance of the order in which I record my information as it can alter the story. In the above image I placed my drawings and Photocopies in a different order and it changes Kay’s story into my personal experience. On the morning of my walk I was feeling sentimental missing my family which led me to look for sentimental and nostalgic pieces. My mood determined what I looked at and therefore, the outcome of my story.
With this exercise I logged my findings in a sketch book. I deliberately chose an old book to add to the sense of nostalgia. I began by sticking some of the watercolour sketching inspired by Kay’s watercolours.
Above an example of how changing the order of words can change the meaning of a paragraph. In the same way as my mood can change the perspective of my findings in turn changing ‘ the story’ .
Above – this page that previously had given instructions on what to do in the case of a tornado; By just changing and adding the word love and a photo of my family can demonstrate how the story changes and becomes about my feelings on that day. The tornado is a representation of how missing my family can make me feel in my mind. The heart is open and I thought of filling it with little items representing a heavy heart.
Above I used the pages of trees as my family tree or the tree of life, again adding the sense of nostalgia and history.
I feel that I have taken a long time in this exercise and possibly done more than I needed. It ended up weighing heavy on my heart and mind and I felt that I needed to reflect on some of my thoughts and findings. Ideas & processes is pushing me to think differently in a way that I am not used to. I am not going to lie, I find it challenging!