Monday, September 19, 2011
When you look into a kiln at stoneware temperature (wearing suitable eye protection of course), the first glimpse that you take may not make sense at all. Everything is almost white hot. White on white. You have to stop and think. You are witnessing a place so hostile and unlike the world where you live and breathe that you almost need an interpreter before you start to recognise something that might be the side of a pot, or the little setting of cones that you have placed to tell the temperature. For me, the inside of the kiln is also a place of profound mystery, it is like a microcosm of the universe a fraction of time after the big bang. Materials that seemed stable and dependable at room temperature are transformed by all the heat and are dancing little dances, swapping partners, recombining in new ways, and abandoning atoms of this and that.
It is true, I think, that there is a similar place at the centre of most of us. A place that is simple, unfiltered and raw. It is the Us where our innermost thoughts tumble and ferment. It is the place where we are wounded, or rewarded, where we are motivated, or where we crumple and die. Like the inside of the kiln at peak temperature, it is a place that is so unworldly and unfathomable that it is hostile to those who attempt to peer in. It is a lonely place. This loneliness is neither good or bad, although some fear it. This loneliness just is. It is part of the package of being human. If you are alive, and know that you are alive, than this lonely innermost place will be part of you too!
Looking into a kiln that is at high temperature is damaging to the eyes. To block out harmful radiation, you need suitable goggles (not just sunglasses!). Your view of the inner life of the kiln is therefore achieved through a filter, a veil, a mask.
We reveal or conceal the essential Us with veils, masks, and filters too, and wear different filters for different target audiences! We are selective.
One of the challenges of having a blog, is knowing just what part of one's life to share, and how much to withhold. My choice with this blog has been to lean a little away from the personal, and to focus mostly on the life of potting, and to share some practical stuff that might be helpful to others who are working with glazes and clay. People have given freely of so much to help me get a start at potting, and it is a rewarding and enjoyable part of the deal, as I see it, to be able to give back.
It is fun to see how other potters balance things. Some of you "vent" publicly when things upset you, others prefer to share cooking recipes! To conceal heartaches in pumpkin soup! One thread that there seems to be in common amongst most potters is generosity when it comes to sharing potting tips, and other help. I am so thankful for that. I am also thankful for the variety of approaches to the art of blogging.
I've spent the last two and a bit weeks rather unwell, which is why this post is a bit odd! Essentially the trouble was an infection that raced on through to a kidney and had me rather sick for the first few days. I am currently much better, but not very strong yet. When my temperature was high in the first few nights, I would lie awake at night composing blog posts in my head (there's dedication for you)... it helped pass the time! Happily none of them actually got written, but I can assure you that there were some minor masterpieces there! As I began to get better I found a lot of pleasure in music, and have been attempting to play classical music on the ukulele (the beautiful instrument that I recently got for my 101th birthday), and have spent many hours on the internet looking and listening to people playing banjo (various styles), and other instruments, such as the lute, the dulcimer, and the Hurdy Gurdy.
I wonder if some of you in America have heard of "Mean Mary", here's a link to a piece of her music that kept me amused "Big Red Barn", and another of Mary playing banjo with her brother Frank James playing guitar "Joy".
Must wrap this up now. Hope to be back in the studio again later in the week. The photos were taken recently around our garden. It is Spring here!