Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kiss an Egg

How difficult is it to keep things simple stupid?
Here in Costa Rica we saw the chickens who laid the eggs and bought them from the owner. The eggs are fresh and tasty. I cannot check the date on the end of the carton. There is no carton. They come hand delivered in a recycled large tray. I have not seen a Styrofoam egg carton since I arrived.
So what happened? Did we need more eggs than we could supply without the big stinky chicken farms? Is it simpler to run to the store and buy them? I think the answer is very complicated. We changed. And, I think the word quality was lost.
I am guilty. Just one egg is not enough. I bought to much stuff for my studio thinking it would make it easier. When you visit the potters in the pueblos of New Mexico there is proof the number of tools we think we need is a bit much. I love my tools. I am a tool monger. I like handmade, commercial, new fangled and traditional Chinese tools as well. I sell tools. But the truth is it is how you use the ones you have.
I am guilty. I have a lot of eggs from all kinds of cartons. I have too many tools and that takes more space and more organization. I even have sentimental tools from a friend who died. It is hard to give them away. Life could be more simple if I had fewer tools. I don’t even know what I own. I am trying to look at some and realize I have had my turn, now let someone else play with them. It helps when I donate them to worthy causes. But I have to keep several handfuls to stay secure. At least I have taken them all out of the boxes they came in and used them.
Our ideas, our projects our lives are easiest to enjoy when they are kept simple and maybe a bit organized.
I look in the depths of my dark clothing closet and I panic when I try and find shoes. 30 shoes? 20 pairs? I don’t know. I get the flashlight and search desperately for 2, only 2 good shoes. And, I cannot give them up even if they are too tight or stinky. Maybe I should throw a couple of chickens in my closet.
In grad school we all loved firing with cone 10 gas in that giant kiln. It took several of us to fire it, load it, and mess with all the air, gas, thermocouples and dampers. Then the gas crisis of the 70s hit and they turned the gas off. This caused a panic. We were not considered necessary gas users.
That is when I looked back again to the simple way of life. What is basic? Native Americans, Africans and Mexicans do not have the latest super L&L kiln, like I own and sell, and the pots are gorgeous. I started studying their ways, combined their ideas and fired the most simple way possible. I used sawdust, grass, dung, wood whatever material was most available. I confess I did bisque fire for permanence. Feeling the clay and using the most simple techniques, I learned primitive techniques that are neither unsophisticated nor inferior. I could also see how tradition in crafts would have been helpful.
When I attended the Hopi Indian workshop in the 80’s I asked Fawn Navasie where she got her ideas. She said, “I just close my eyes and see them.”

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