Monday, 28 January 2013

The Cheer of Pottery

Blue Bowls

On dark rainy days, there is some solace in pretty pottery in the home.  Deborah Needleman writes that having pottery is one way of adding a sense of history to a home.  I can picture the potter's wheel turning, as it has for millenia. I think of John Keats, meditating on pottery from ancient Greece, and humanity from a different time, and mortality.

In my case, I also picture the potter who made it. Most of our pottery is made by Elaine Futterman of Creek Clayworks in Roberts Creek.  She and her husband, my now retired science teacher Mike Allegretti, make a few different colour lines, but my favourite is blue.

A few bowls by Creek Clayworks.

A small casserole by Creek Clayworks.

I think it is fair to say that the entire main colour scheme of our house has been transformed by wanting everything to look a little like these pots, or to look good with them – even the walls and furniture.

A spoon rest and garlic bowl on a green tray. The garlic braid doesn't fit in the garlic bowl!

It mixes well, I think, with my grandma's old cookie plate and even the Sophie Conran wooden spoon holder. But Elaine makes those, too. Maybe I will get one next summer.

You've seen one of these before, with peaches, here.

We often buy ONE BLUE THING at the summer craft fair as an anniversary present to ourselves. When you have been married as long as we have, you tend to form a collection, even though we do occasionally crack a piece.

When I see some of Elaine's blue pottery in someones else's house, I feel like we must be related. Their Christmas Open House is like a community gathering; I always see some old friend there. One year, I saw one of my colleagues, who had been off work fighting cancer. I'm so glad I saw her there, because that was the last time I saw her.

All summer, this vase is full of garden roses on the dining room table.
Elaine made this cookie jar just for us.  Ode Written Upon a Roberts Creek Cookie Jar, anyone?

The fruit bowl is often transformed into the salad bowl, especially for cesar salads.

I am happy whenever I look at one of these bowls. I think about when we bought each piece, and about Elaine and Mike and how long they've known me, and the kind of people they are. (The kind to move from California to the Sunshine Coast, B.C., during the Vietnam War.) The kind to dedicate their lives to forming and firing the beautiful and useful.  I hang out with them whenever they let me, during their open houses and craft fairs.

Last summer, while on holiday, we did something quite radical. We bought pottery by someone else.

Bud vase and water jug by Elaine Hughes-Games of Westbank, B.C.
At the Naramata long weekend craft fair, after much deliberation, we decided to branch out, and import pottery from the interior, made by someone we didn't even know.  It looks good with our other pottery.

I feel lucky to live on the west coast, where so many potters and other artists live.  Almost everything in our homes, from the 2x4s and drywall to the tiles, dishes, cutlery, tea towels – heck, almost every thing in the house – is mass produced.  We live in the most mass produced era in history, though everyone since the Industrial Revolution has experienced some alienation from the handmade. By buying hand crafted pottery I love, as Deborah Needleman writes in The Perfectly Imperfect Home, I "can help add originality and humanity to (my) home."

Humanity, with all its history and all its fragility.  Still, it isn't like looking at my dental x-rays for that sense of mortality. It is a cheerful feeling, like a connection to what has gone before.

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