February 20, a year ago, was the last time I had lunch with the friends I dub my Art Group. We were in that in-between time. Corona virus was already in our vocabulary. We had made the definitional change from epidemic to pandemic. We had friends or family in parts of the world or on either coast that we were worried about but, in our small corner of Minnesota, Covid-19 still felt distant. We were still a month away from our first statewide lockdown. That day, as always, the food and libations were delicious and the company even better but little did we know as we set a March date for our next Ladies Night Out Lunch that it would simply slip by in a flurry of social distancing, masks and sanitizing wipes.
Over the years, I have self-described as the voyeur among this talented group of women all of whom were or still are SEMVA artists. Despite being the odd duck without any artistic training (although I did get A-s in my art appreciation college classes) I was always enthralled by the intriguing discussions about gouache and pastels, resists and French dyes, plein air and pallet knives. When I was still working, it was such a treat not to talk about library politics and, believe me, librarianship can be filled with intrigue. In my retirement world, lunch with my Art Group was always inspirational and nudged me to explore new fibers and different knitting patterns. Plus, what is not to like (and certainly miss!) when people appreciate the newest project off my needles.
While missing my lunch companions, I enjoyed a touch of Covid humor shared by a friend. This math word-problem is a spot on description for the year just ending and how 2021 is shaping up:
If you’re going down a river at 2 MPH and your canoe loses a wheel, how much pancake mix would you need to re-shingle your roof?
A number of years ago, a friend described the Japanese art of Kintsugi in her opening words on a Sunday morning. Amazing to think that in this all too quick to pitch, always buy new consumer world, there are those whose art focuses on the broken, carefully recreating that which was valuable and making it even more beautiful by re-assembling it with precious metals.
I am sure I must have passed ancient porcelain repaired with gold or platinum in the Asian Art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) but nothing immediately comes to mind. Although, to be honest, we frequently walk the long corridor dividing period rooms without careful study simply because it is the most direct route to our timed entrance to tour a featured exhibit.
One day, while visiting Caradori Pottery for bowls to give as wedding presents, I indulged my love of pottery and treated myself. Unlike a piece of pottery broken by use, this vibrant green glazed bowl had developed a small crack during firing. Rather than reject this beauty, David, artfully filled the gap with 24K gold.
I bought the first of our many pottery bowls in an art gallery in Tiburon, California while visiting a friend in San Francisco. Enough time has passed since that 1974 purchase that I have no recollection whether color or shape drew my attention. What I do know is that I have continued to be drawn to hand-thrown pottery, especially bowls. Whether the bowl holds dough rising or serves as a catch all for knitting notions, each bowl is blend of art and functionality.
When looking for a unique gift whether a small token of holiday cheer or a gift for a momentous occasion I usually defer to pottery. I have made purchases while traveling – Portland, Saint Petersburg, San Diego (carefully hand carrying my new treasure home) – but my favorite potter is David Caradori. David grew up across the street from my house in Eau Claire. His brother was in my grade school class and our Moms shared a church card club. But regardless of our childhood connections, I buy from David because he is simply an amazing artist.
His years of study with Japanese masters are visible in his glaze designs and the wood firings take days to transform thrown clay with flames and ash. A short (4 minute) YouTube video reveals the result of the 2020 Autumn Firing from the Suskenei Kiln which produced approximately 650 finished pieces including the nine small bowls I requested in May for Christmas presents. Each small bowl is approximately 4 inches in diameter and perfect for holding a pinch of herbs to flavor a sauce or to keep stitch markers corralled or just to enjoy.
Each morning a smidge of peace arrives in my mailbox; just a click away from a longer meditation. From December 1-21, in addition to a wonderful knit-a-long pattern, Christina Campbell shares daily reflections on her 2020 theme “peace in place”. Her creative writing, landscape photographs, and peace building challenges are inspirational. I am writing more and reflecting on her definition of peace “…cultivating right relationships with self, others, and the Earth”.
While Phoenix is not our stay-in-place place in these Covid times, I remember a quiet walk through the Desert Botanical Garden. The trails wend through flora exotic to my Midwest field and forest eye. The garden offers brilliant pops of color against the subdued desert backdrop, as well as sculpture placed so artfully so as to merge with the landscape. Certainly what Chihuly intended with his Glass Towers. In another era we might have asked: Is it live or is it Memorex?