I'm about to get all woo-woo, y'all...
So, avert thine eyes, haters of mush n' sentiment and words like "vibe" and "energy". Just flee to any of the tabs above and press it - it's your escape hatch. Now, on to the feels.
I think the best part about being an artist is the connection with the people who buy your work. It is an incredibly humbling, deeply special experience to have someone invite your work into their lives. It's also a profoundly social and community-building act to buy local and to buy something handmade. I think it is, honestly, a form of quiet revolution in our world today. So, to those of you who do this, thank you for keeping craft alive.
This sense of connection, well, it's why I create anything at all. It's not about the object, the end product so much. It's about the place that object has been invited to live in someone's life. It is still remarkable to me that a) anyone would want to buy what I've made, b) that this sense of craft is something that is still valued, even if subconsciously, and c) that a simple object can connect people in profound ways.
There was a young lady who stopped by my table at the sale on Saturday and stood staring at one of my vases, drawings of daylilies covering the surface. She didn't say anything, she just stood looking at the vase for quite some time. I wondered what she was thinking, if she had a connection to this flower like I did. Lilies have always been a bit of a special flower to me. We moved to Georgia when I was 12 - smack dab between elementary and middle school, a ridiculously awkward period in my life. Braces, puppy feet, a face that was growing in certain places and not in others (I'm looking at you, nose). I knew no one and hadn't made any friends yet and I missed the life that I had in Maryland. It was a lonely, isolating and sad time for me, and I spent most days missing my friends, feeling that Georgia wasn't my home, and crying myself to sleep at night.
My mom, watching me go through this, tried to find a way to help connect me to this new place. And so, one day, without a word about it, we drove to the garden center. We both have decidedly black thumbs, so to say this was out of the ordinary is a bit of an understatement. I'm pretty sure that I had never been in one before that day, that we had intuitively been blacklisted. I thought she was having a mental breakdown as I watched her grabbing packages of daylily bulbs, ripping them off the shelves and tossing them into the cart like she was on a game show. She was a woman on a mission. She looked at me and smiled, assuring me she hadn't lost it, and I joined in the mad fury. She'd toss me a bag and I'd quickly turn around and toss it into our basket. This was the best I had ever been at basketball.
We cleared them out. Literally, we cleared the shelves - stacking bulbs high in our cart until they tumbled over the sides and we needed to grab a second cart to contain them.
We went home and over the next few weeks, every day after school, we would dig in the hard, red, Georgia clay until the entire side of our yard, about an acre, was an extravagance of bulbs waiting to take root. I had something to look forward to again, something to take care of and focus on, something to create, all by my mother's side.
For nine months, we waited. And then, it happened. Seemingly overnight, the entire hillside erupted in fiery orange and red and yellow and peach blooms, exploding in bold cheerfulness.They blanketed our lawn, in what seemed to me, pure magic. And they were just for us - invisible from the street, it was our own secret garden.
For weeks, we would go out together early in the morning, hunting for new blossoms, clipping armful after armful of abundant daylily blooms. We took every vase out of our cupboards and when we ran out of vases, we used anything we could find - oatmeal canisters and punch bowls and pitchers and 2 liter bottles with the tops chopped off. And then, when we ran out of that, we laid the flowers across tables and filled every corner until there was no room for sadness, for what had been, there was only room for the beauty of that moment.
She made a fairy wonderland, just to bring a smile to my face. Those daylilies were something special between us, a kind of magic that seemed to belong just to us, that let me know that I was loved, that I had a place.
I thought about this as the young woman looked at my vase, at the daylilies blooming on red clay. She stood there, quietly, thinking. She said nothing, didn't ask any questions, didn't pick it up, just looked at it. She walked away and circled around the room, looking at this and that, talking to the other artists and I was left wondering, curious what she had been thinking about. But, then I got distracted and went about making coffee and greeting customers and letting thoughts of her slip aside.
Eventually, she made her way back to my table and continued to just look at this particular vase, standing and looking and saying nothing. I walked away, not wanting to pressure her or disturb her stillness. When I came back, she turned to me, decisively. "I have to have this," she said, breaking the silence. As I was wrapping up her vase, she told me that she felt like that piece was meant for her, that she had to buy it for her mother. "On the day that my mom brought me back from the hospital, our yard was filled with blooming lilies. It's our flower. It's what she thinks of when she thinks of me. I want her to have this. To have this near her."
How beautiful and small and connected this world can be! It was their flower, like it was my flower with my mother - it was the visual language that spoke to the beauty and love and depth of their connection to one another. This vase would allow her to speak "I love you" in their language, in a way nothing else could. And, I understood.
To me, it had never been just a vase, it was my memory. To her, it was relationship. And somehow, this simple red clay object could bridge both her experience and my own.
And that's the big why for me. Pottery breathes and lives. It's a part of your morning coffee in the stillness of the early day. It holds your tea when you need comfort and the flowers your husband or wife bought you on your anniversary. It is the bowls you use on Thanksgiving when everyone you love surrounds you and it's the plates your teenager forgets to carry to the sink after dinner. It is a living part of our worlds. It's not a thing, but a witness to memory, to the moments that build a life. To know that I could make something that could play even a small part in such a beautiful story -the story of you- is everything to me. I want everyone to experience that, and I hope that as you look around at the things you've created - or have yet to create - you realize that the time, and love, and intentions that you poured into your art fill your home with warmth and life and makes it vibrant with the traces of your hand. That this is what it means to be an artist, a potter, and that you are one, even if you haven't started your journey yet.
We love you. We thank you for letting us be a part of your artistic journey.