Sunday, August 8, 2010


It is good to be reminded of what gives us joy. This reminder is found in a place of stillness. In quietness. It is about who we are, what makes us laugh, and what moves us to tears. We so easily miss this place of reminder when worry, noise, and daily living crowd in.

C. S. Lewis wrote a book called "Surprised by Joy". I have always loved the title of this book, although it is now such a long time since I last read it, that I really can't remember what went on between its covers!

There is something surprising about joy, and joy runs much deeper than happiness. Joy works somewhere in our middles, in our sinews and fibres! When I think of joy, I think of a child running down a garden path. The arms are out wide, a smile lights the face and eyes, and the child is making an AAAhhhggAAhhUgggh sound that is an expression of undiluted delight. The sound wobbles with each clumsy foot fall (the child has not really mastered running as yet), but the child is running towards someone that it loves and trusts absolutely, so there is no fear of falling! I think joy is harder to find as an adult, which makes it even more important to be reminded of it at the very least!

Several months ago (in summer...) I had a delightful day out making pots in a beautiful garden.

This Waikouaiti garden is the work of Gwen and Les Pullar. The garden is open to the public at times through the year, and to groups by appointment. Someone had arranged a tour of several local gardens, and the idea was that local artists and crafts people could be discovered working in them.

I suppose we were the equivalent of the lions and tigers in a Safari park, to be admired, but to be approached with care!

I was lucky to have a summer house to growl and prowl in, as the day started with a distinct chill to the air and a hint of rain. Probably due to the inclement nature of the day, people were slow arriving. I set up my Leach Style Kick wheel (a gift from a potter friend). I discovered that the little octagonal summer house made a nice studio, the wheel sat very comfortably in the center, and there was plenty of space around me to put out my bags of clay, bucket of water, and wooden boards to put new pots on. I was out of practice at the start of the day, but I got into a rhythm, and the pots began to accumulate steadily, and with increasing ease.

Few people visited the garden in the morning, but visitors built up from about lunch time onwards. I enjoyed talking to people about what I was doing, and I did some rapid slip decoration on many of the pots whilst they were still on the wheel. Most people really seemed to enjoy the transformation of the clay to pot, and then pot to pot with decoration, and the hardy ones actually stayed to see more than one pot made and finished!

I did not sell any pots that day, people really just came to look at the gardens, and to buy a few plants, but the day does stay with me as one that was special.

Last Friday I had a visit from a lovely couple, Rhonda and Mark. Rhonda, it turned out, had taken several photos of me at work that day, and she gave me copies of them. That is where this "Surprised by Joy" theme comes in... the photos remind me of what I really like to do. I like to make simple, honest pots. I like to explore form and make something that looks like a person has made it. I enjoy the feel of the clay and the mystery of it. Clay is an ancient material, and it is worth treating with respect. I was peaceful and happy that day in the garden and, whilst I had the aches of an adult, and the weariness, there was something of the child still there with arms held wide, and the open trusting smile.

Here is Rhonda, someone still in touch with Joy!

Things have been a bit "up and down" this week, and a visit to Rhonda and Mark last Saturday, and their visit here two days ago with the photos brought much welcome sunshine!

The photos of the Pullar's Garden and Me potting are by Rhonda. Rhonda makes beautiful clothing out of second hand clothing and material, she also does stained glass and mosaic work. Her partner, Mark, does lovely stained glass, cabinet making, and "finishing" work. He has fitted out several house buses.


Linda Starr said...

I felt joyful just reading your post and then I saw Rhonda and felt wonderful seeing her colorful and creative attire, what a great day.

Peter said...

Hello there Linda,
Nice to hear from you. Rhonda is just wonderful, and I hope to feature some more photos of what she makes in a post sometime soon. I wonder what the weather is like in your part of the world. Grey, wet, and cold here at the moment with the higher hills towards Dunedin all covered with snow. It almost felt like summer the other day! Best Wishes, P.

Angie said...

What a wonderful setting to pot in ... great for you to have the photos now ... now you can feel joy when you look back at them. Your friend Rhonda and her other half sound so talented ...Ilook forward to seeing their work on here some time.

It is grey and wet but warmish here ...typical Scottish summer lol...hope it brightens up as we are going to a BBQ Birthday Party in 4 hours !!!..I thought she was fool hardy ( or brave)to have a BBQ here lol.

Peter said...

Hello Angie,
I hope your BBQ goes well in spite of the rain! I think that the thing to do is to get as close as you can to the BBQ and keep at least half of you warm, well fed and steaming! We were in Fort William in late August of 1997 and were treated to twenty minutes of rain followed by five minutes of fine followed by twenty minutes of rain... and so on for 3 days (we even got some sleet). We actually enjoyed the time there very much and had some lovely walks around the place. Laura's father is from there, so it was a special visit. You would enjoy meeting Rhonda and Mark a great deal.

Happy BBQing! P :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Good to see you posting. Feared your feeling puny was still hanging on.
What a lovely place to pot. Think if I did it, I would try to always work outdoors. How nice of Rhonda to provide the pictures.

Tracey Broome said...

Some days when the world is just right I have that feeling you are speaking of. What a great place to be for the day making pots. I became a potter from watching someone very much like you at a fair once. Who knows who you might have influenced that day!

Peter said...

Hi Patti,
You're very perceptive!! Puny I was, but much better now. Now I'm going to try to fit in some walking every day so as to be magnificent, tanned and beautiful before heading off to your side of the world (actually most of those are not possible, but I'd settle for being able to walk 3 miles and smile at the same time!).
I'd like to build a little shaded out door place for my potter's wheel for this summer, it was lovely working outside.

Hi Tracey,
I always hope that there will be someone who will see the magic of the clay turning into a pot and be inspired to have a go themselves. I guess that thought alone would be enough to make those occasions of working in front of the public worth while for me.

The other thing about it is that I have a growing sense of the need for us to demonstrate potting to keep the craft alive. So few people are involved with it here now that not many people really have much idea about even the most basic concepts of the process. This isn't their fault, but it is just an indication of where we are at as a society. Many people don't know that a glaze has to be heated up in a kiln, or that hand made domestic ware can actually be used in the kitchen, without meeting a potter, they are very unlikely to ever know or care.

lithereed said...

What a great post! You are clearly doing what you love and are (no doubt) inspiring others at the same time. I know most artists don't particularly enjoy "working the crowd," but your words about the need for demonstration are true. If you don't show them, how will they know?

Peter said...

Hi Lithereed,
Good to hear from you. I do quite enjoy demonstrating making pots on the wheel, but I used to be horribly nervous about demonstrating painting to people when I was teaching painting. I certainly think that there is an urgent need to cheerfully communicate the process of making pots.

Dad said...

Thanks Peter. That's made our day too!
I think the hymn writer knew a lot of what you wrote about when he penned the lines:
Drop your still dews of quietness 'til all our strivings cease.
Take from our minds the strain and stress, and let our ordered minds confess the beauty of your Peace.

Peter said...

Hello Dad!

That is a lovely hymn, and it does seem to make the strain and stress wash away a bit as it is read or sung! :)

Armelle said...

Hi Peter,
It's nice to see your joy in the heart of the winter, with these photos of the summer. You seem a musician who makes his lines under the bandstand (ses gammes sous le kiosque à musique).
Lovely pots and lovely wears on Rhonda, she is really creative.
My computer is very low, I should buy an external memory to stock all my photos, without one, I could not come online

Peter said...

Bonsoir Armelle,

I have been busy making glazes today and am rather tired now that I sit at my computer, and I can't think of much to say, but I do want to to say that it is really nice to hear from you!

Photos of summer in winter time are a welcome reminder of good times and sunny days. J'ai aimé vos photographies des fleurs sur votre blog.

I like what you say about me seeming "like a musician who makes his lines under the bandstand!" The summer house was a lovely place to work, and would have been good for music too.

It sounds like a good idea to get some external storage for your computer, photos certainly take up a lot of room.

Et maintenant je dois aller dormir !

Bye pour maintenant!

Peter, Laura, NS (sommeil) and G (sommeil également)

Danny Holland said...

Hi Peter

Awesome photos! Roll on summer...good to see the sun is out today anyway.
I left the glaze recipe you asked for in a comment on my last post - sorry I don't know how to 'reply' to your comment so it goes to you? Still getting the hang of all this...

Peter said...

Hi Danny,
Good to hear from you, glad the sun is out for you (or was yesterday at least), we are all gray up here today... and quite cold. Thanks for leaving the glaze recipe for me, I'll hop over to your site and have a look. To be honest, I don't understand how everything in blogland works either, and I've been fooling around with the technology for over a year!
I'm really enjoying your site (Danny Holland Potter), and hope that others will start discovering it.
Best Wishes, P.

Angie said...

Tried to comment on the above post but it wouldn't let me ????

Great texture shots ...I wonder whether those patterns will appear on a vase one day. I hate walking as my back ends up acheing and any incline ...even one everyone else says is flat ...seems to stress me ...thats how unfit I am, xx

Linda Starr said...

Hi Peter, your comments are turned off for your next post so I thought I'd comment here about the wonderful scenery you have shown there, hope all is well, hot here with a little rain storm every afternoon, but not that bad really, big puffy clouds going by in very blue skies.

Peter said...

Hi Linda and Angie, thank you for your comments, I did receive them, but... I am not sure what went wrong with the "Walking" post, but the comments were turned off (I didn't fiddle with the settings, so I don't know how it happened!). I have copied your comments over to it.

Rhonda Beck said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments. Another time we can put other photos up.

from Rhonda.