February 19, 2014

Fallen Limbs: Menace or Manna?

When I was in China, I was impressed by how the Chinese students I worked with described their potential for accomplishments. Accomplishing a goal was a factor of time, effort and relative ability. I never heard from my students that they considered themselves incapable of achieving something. A student who considered himself not as talented or capable as a classmate simply said it would take him or her more time to complete the same task, never that it could not be done. This impressed me considerably and I remembered this lesson from my students until this day. Reducing a task to a factor of time needed and degree of effort required instead of allocating a desired goal to the impossible or possible became especially apropos in the face of a protracted illness.

It takes me much longer to do the things I used to do, but I still do them, finding ways to compensate for my slowness and awkwardness. This has certainly been the case in the production of pit fired ceramics. Gone are the days when I could collect tinder and chop wood in the morning and fire a kiln in the afternoon. Instead I start collecting small pieces of wood about a month in advance of a firing, usually a handful a day from the nearby woods where I take a short morning walk. A month of daily handfuls makes for one wood firing. It takes a long time, but it gets done and it is possible.

Last week we had the ice storm. The fallen tree limbs were a menace - downing power lines and leaving us without power for four days. Yesterday, with the help of a friend with a chain saw, we got most of the larger fallen limbs out of the way. I used a heavy duty pruner to cut the smaller branches. These I’ve been slowly stacking the branches for the next pit fire. I’ve been carefully peeling the side twigs off of dogwood limbs for kindling. After about another week I’ll have my pile of timber ready for the next firing. So was the fallen timber was only a menace to our power system. It was more like manna from heaven for my future art.

The small lidded vessel pictured above came from the most recent pit fire. The copper carbonate reduced to red in small areas - exactly what I had hope for against the blues and blacks.

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