“Discard such definite imaginations of phenomena as your own self, thou human being, thou’rt a numberless mass of sun-motes: each mote a shrine. The same as to your shyness of other selves, selfness as divided into infinite numbers of beings, or selfness as identified as one self existing eternally. Be obliging and noble, be generous with your time and help and possessions, and be kind, because the emptiness of this little place of flesh you carry around and call your soul, your entity, is the same emptiness in every direction of space unmeasurably emptiness, the same, one, and holy emptiness everywhere: why be selfly and unfree, Man God, in your dream? Wake up, thou’rt selfless and free. “Even and upright your mind abides nowhere,” states Hui Neng of China. We’re all in Heaven now.”
– The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, Jack Kerouac
I grew up thinking that I am what is contained within the limits of my own body, and only that. I loved learning that there were many other ways to think about it, from the cosmic to the spiritual. I am intrigued by the idea that this separateness that I feel – from other people, from the objects that surround me in my life – is potentially just an imagined separation, and I enjoy thinking about how my own existence could expand to include other objects in my surroundings if I so desire.
I’m drawn to industrial forms – sometimes it’s an aesthetic appeal, but often it’s the mystery that the object holds for me. I am not skilled in any vocational trade, all of the machines and technology that allow me to live my life comfortably I take completely for granted. I have no idea how they actually work. I think it’s this sense of helplessness and naiveté that draw me closer to these structures. The electricity meter in the alleyway, the thermostat by the door, the gas gauge behind the dumpster. These things are always hidden in plain sight until you notice them – then you see them everywhere. And because of that, because they’re so commonplace that I don’t even see them unless I’m actively looking, it makes them feel somehow so much more obtrusive to my everyday life. With all of the things I can control about my life, this is one thing that is ever-present whether I like it or not.
This relationship between the human body and industrial forms may not seem obvious or sensible, which I think is exactly why I like it. The body is soft and fleshy and vulnerable while the lines of industry are sharp and clean, with plenty of hard edges and right angles. I’ve always wondered how my body, with all of its lumps and bumps, is supposed to relate to our world that has been so clearly defined in recent years by the machined lined. This contrast makes me uncomfortable, which is why I want to explore it more.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve sold my work at both the Girdwood Forest Fair and at the Spenard Farmers Market. What a valuable learning experience. From getting to see people’s reactions to my work, to the hassle of setting up and taking down, to the many unforeseen issues that inevitably arise, to getting to spend many, many hours sitting and talking and laughing with my booth partners.
I’m constantly reminded of how wonderful the ceramics community is. I’ve always appreciated that being a genuinely hard worker is a standard among artists (I think it has to be that way). It’s inspiring to be around motivated people, and it’s humbling to get to work with artists who make art their livelihoods.
Making work for these fairs was a much different experience than what I’ve become accustomed to in the studio at UAA. Steve Godfrey’s assignments focus on content and on refining and perfecting each piece – this is a challenging feat to accomplish when trying to make a hundred pots in a short amount of time, as I did this summer. I focused on making only a few different kinds of things – mugs, tumblers, bowls, and a few strainers – and then made a whole lot of them. The repetition of making twenty to thirty of the same form allowed me to focus more on which movements and gestures were important in making the form, and which ones I could do without. Did I really need to those final two pulls on that mug? Would my fingertip work just as well, if not better than, a rib to finish the rim of that bowl?
Working in this way was a valuable learning experience, but I’m really excited to get back into the studio and begin working on new ideas. I enjoy working on pieces that can be time consuming and produce only one or two of a kind at a time – making work for a fair was not the right venue for that mode of production. I’m looking forward to trying out new surfaces and further developing some forms that I’ve been working on.
In the meantime, I’ll be madly cleaning and packing up my apartment while simultaneously trying to get out and enjoy this amazing summer that we’ve been having here in Anchorage!
Last spring I was approached by my classmates – Lukas Easton, Keri-Lyn Fitzgerald, and Kipp Wilkinson – asking me if I would be interested in working on a collaborative group show. I put any hesitations I had in a special little spot to be watched but hopefully not tapped into, and dove right in.
Over the course of working on the show and while the show was up, there were plenty of mishaps and hang-ups (including a 7.1 earthquake!), but I came out of the experience with an invigorated love of ceramics and a deep appreciation for my co-collaborators.
Working collaboratively with others always poses its own set of challenges – compromising, clashes in personalities, aesthetic differences. In the bleary-eyed hours of late studio nights, this also meant stress from lack of sleep and proper nutrition, and terse interactions fueled by failed pots and day old coffee. But by the end of a week working intensely with Kipp, Keri-Lyn, and Lukas, I had nothing but amazement and adoration for these three. It was a privilege to witness hard, honest work; I was inspired in ways I did not expect.
Last year I did something I never do: I kept a new year’s resolution. I tend not to make resolutions because – if we’re being honest – I’m about as fickle as they come. Someone once told me that being fickle is evidence of an active mind. I’ll go with that awfully positive outlook on a trait that I view as less-than-desirable.
My resolution was to keep a journal, a sketchbook, a place where I keep all of the things that meant something to me all in once place. I didn’t write in it every day, but I kept coming back to it for the entire year. To be able to look back on a year of my life in this tangibly strange, unfiltered form was, over all, a very good experience. To put down on paper what’s in my head without hesitation is perhaps one of the hardest things for me to do. I like to please people, I only want to make waves if they’re that warm, beachy kind. So to try, just a little bit at a time, to move away from thinking of how other people will judge me was one of the most important things I learned. Because I knew that no one would see what I was working on, I got to make whatever I wanted. Turns out I ended up wanting to share a lot of it with the world (or at least my close friends… and apparently the internet too).
I’m home for the holidays, and yesterday I got to roam my old stomping grounds. I grew up just blocks away from Sandy Beach, the site of the old Treadwell Mine of the Gold Rush era in Juneau, Alaska. It shut down in the 1920’s, and a huge fire subsequently wiped out most of the town surrounding the mine. But what was left was never really touched. Trees sprang up around and within the remnants of buildings. Pilings from the old wharf run from the forest across the beach and into the ocean. Cars and machinery emerge through the forest floor and strange angles, covered in moss and consumed by rust. The saltwater pump house, tall and narrow with barnacles covering its lower half, still stands in the channel – a true icon on Douglas Island.
I still like to imagine the hustle and bustle of the town in the early 1900’s. What life must have been like back then! If I could time travel to any time, it would be then – no question about it.
Yesterday I looked at the wreckage and ruins with a new appreciation. Hard shapes of industry and innovation softened in deterioration. The edges of machines lessened by the passage of time, by rust and moss, dirt and lichen. Order and disorder existing together at once, if viewed through the right lens. What once was a straight line is now wavering, but still suggests intention. The evidence of a skilled craftsman sits quietly in the forest, collecting dirt and slowly turning back into the elements from which it came. A rusty old car engine to some, a reminder of the intersection of humanity and impermanence to others.
To learn more about the Treadwell Mine, this PDF is a great place to start.
“While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.”
– Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
I am a thinker and a maker. My undergraduate degree – a Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Sciences – allowed me to dip my toes into so many different fields of science. Chemistry and biology, physics and geology, calculus and statistics. I was searching for a way to make sense of the world. The more I learned, the more perplexed I became with the world. I began to realize that questions I was asking simply couldn’t be answered with math or science.
I was searching for the light – whatever that may have meant in each moment. For truth and beauty and honesty and kindness and heart. I will always be searching for the light. And what has been revealed to me in my time in the ceramics studio have been moments of extreme clarity and inspiration, and other moments so much darker. Moments of inadequacy and fear and sheer frustration. But what comes from these desolate moments, standing on a hard concrete floor under fluorescent lights at three in the morning, is so beautiful. To make it through to the other side – to move through everything that could potentially hold me back and to see the light on the other side.