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pinch a pot

January 20, 2023

There’s a time for big and ambitious, and there’s a time for small and humble. If I haven’t touched clay in a while, the sensible thing to do is to pinch a pot. Oh, but the excitement of soft, squishy mud in my hands, silence all around me. And before I know it, I’m forming one hundred mosaic tiles to attach to a two foot vase. Only, the vase is leaning like that tower in Pisa. And the squares are losing their shape like marshmallows to a flame. When I’ve taken a hiatus from pottery –– this one was a long one –– I return so full of enthusiasm only to be crushed by the reality that practice makes perfect (good). I can’t expect good work to come from unpracticed hands. The sensible thing to do is surrender wild ideas for simple pieces that remind the hands how to work with clay, simple pieces that yield the confidence to channel into the wilder ones. So, after a week of unsensible (is that a word?) I am going back to basics. Yet again. And again, with feeling. Don’t you sometimes feel that no matter how far you’ve come, you’re always at the beginning?

monochrome

December 23, 2022

As much as our brains would have us believe otherwise, things are rarely black and white. It’s in the vastness of the grey where uncertainty and fear swim which is why we so often hold on to the outer edges. But there’s no nuance or variation in the black and white. No richness. No imagination. Isobel Rayson’s woodblock carvings are shining examples of what lies between two opposites. There is so much intricate detail, possibility and originality in the grey, proving that it’s always worth diving into.

eye contact

October 26, 2022

“A drawing a day keeps the doctor away,” says Tina Berning of her online diary. The Berlin-based artist shares an original drawing everyday on her Instagram account. Her figurative drawings, mainly portraits of women are ethereal, haunting, beautiful and intense. Berning’s women don’t shy away, with gazes that pierce right through us.

communal swim

September 21, 2022

Straining a muscle last week was an immobilizing sign that I had too much on my plate. My plate runneth over, in fact. On reflection, it’s clear that all the waters had merged, so to speak –– mine, my husband’s, my children’s, my friend’s –– and I was unable to distinguish between their lanes and my own. It was one giant pool, and there I was throwing out buoys in every direction even though everyone can swim. And if they can’t swim, they’re learning to. As parents, we incapacitate and undermine our children when we attempt to salve and solve their every issue. Marriage, or any other significant relationship, is no different. We think it comes from a place of love –– and feel undervalued when our efforts go unrecognized –– when in fact it is a need to control our own anxiety around what they’re dealing with and what it brings up in us that’s driving our efforts. It’s very human, and not very helpful. And this is when I know I need to step away from the pool, or the plate, or whatever metaphor we’re going with, and gain some perspective. Eventually I return to myself, find a lane, and swim on.

Queen Elizabeth II

September 9, 2022

Over the last 24-hours, our news feeds have been flooded with images of the Queen. Some, such as her commemorative portraits, are familiar, while others –– her pausing on an airport tarmac to tend to the Corgis or flashing Prince Philip a mischievous smile at a state dinner –– are less so. But it’s the photographs of the Queen taking photographs on her beloved Roliflex camera that I love seeing most. I read once that she takes her camera and her monogrammed navy leather albums packed with pictures of her travels, family and pets wherever she goes. It’s poignant that one of the most photographed women in the world was happiest behind the lens. We see people through our own filters, and these are the images that resonate with me. I wonder what or whom she’s photographing in these images; a prized horse, a president, her children rolling down a hill? To imagine the world through her eyes –– that, I find fascinating. Just think of all the moments, both historic and mundane, (and historic in their mundanity) chronicled in those albums. Here she is, capturing her journey through the South Pacific aboard the SS Gothic during the coronation world tour in 1953 on a hand-cranked Kodak 8mm movie camera.

it’s all relative

July 11, 2022

I’m coming up for air after many days avec le dreaded virus, and much like I had hoped, there is some relief in having had it. As with anything we’re afraid of, the reality is rarely as bad as our imaginations would have us believe. I keep thinking about how far we’ve come, and how different my experience must be to people’s who caught it in the early months of a world in panic and lock-down, with no vaccine protection, long quarantines and a barrage of misinformation to wade through. I did throw a pity party for myself on more than one occasion, Jason being my only guest. We’re allowed to cry when we feel like shit. And we’re allowed to throw imaginary darts in the eyes of entitled, arrogant twats who’ve waltzed through the last two years ignoring and defying all sensible and altruistic action, people who’ve brushed it off as a mild headache or a bit of a sniffle. Goody for you. How nice that you’re sitting in a cafe with a mild headache. Now, do me a favour and choke on your croque monsieur. Once I stopped crying, (nothing like a good weep to release snot from your head) and feeling bitter and petty, I thanked my lucky stars.

family drama

May 26, 2022

It’s a strange feeling when a television show you’ve watched for years, that you’ve connected with deeply, and that’s carried you through many highs and lows comes to an end. Dawson’s Creek, Friends, Sex and the City –– all these shows left me with that feeling. It was always Pacey. Of course Rachel got off the plane. And that scene of Miranda bathing Steve’s Mum will forever be printed in my mind. It wasn’t until many years later with Schitt’s Creek that I felt this way about a television show. Its characters are drawn with such beautiful hamanity and nuance, that anyone watching feels absolved of their own foibles and failings. Which brings me to This is Us, a multi-generational family drama that has doubled as a warm blanket, hot water bottle, and cup of honey tea since 2016 when I first started watching. What I realized last night, as I watched the final episode, is that what I’ve clung to, and what has kept me going, (and watching) all these years, is the hope that everything will be okay in the end. Same goes for my friends on the Creek, at the coffee shop, and at the Rosebud Motel. Enter that strange feeling; we’ve been living with them, and through them for so long, and now that we know that everything is ok for them, we have nowhere else to look but to our own realities. And hope that we too get our full circle moments, our second chances, our one true loves. It’s naive, I know, to think this way. After all, it’s just t.v. But done well, the people and stories transcend the four corners of your screen and enter your home like they are your family. They aren’t, we know they aren’t, but the experiences –– the struggles and the triumphs –- they’re universal.

the real deal

May 12, 2022

Rugs, pillows, wallpapers, and a fabulous fabric vanity skirt on the bathroom sink, this house on the Deal seafront is a feast for the eyes with rich colours and whimsical textiles galore. I’m a sucker for red and white stripes –– they conjure seaside and circus –– so that fabulous sofa beckons me in. Those kitchen cabinets painted in Little Greene’s ‘Woodland’, are terrific and I love the contrast with the delicate pink of the Farrow & Ball walls. It all feels so bright and cozy and warm, and the mismatch of print, pattern and colour, although very deliberate, adds to the laissez-faire-ness of it all. It’s such an art, creating a mish mash aesthetic that feels as considered as it does spontaneous, and that delights and surprises at every turn.

orange tree (part deux)

May 3, 2022

It was a rookie mistake to put my orange tree on the deck last June. I’d been caring for it all year, and I was eager to see it flourish under spring showers and sunshine. It seems so stupid now that I didn’t do it gradually. Of course the intensity of midday sun would bleach its verdant leaves acid yellow. And all that rainwater must have choked the poor thing. What was I thinking? I quickly brought it back in and crossed my fingers that it would convalesce in its original spot and bare fruit again in the coming months. No such luck. One by one its yellow leaves started to fall, despite my continued commitment. Then came the familiar quandary that all plant owners face, and why so many of us avoid buying them in the first place; do I ditch the plant and replace it with another one, or do I carry on taking care of an unhealthy one that may or may not thrive again in a year? “Pull it out of its pot, wash the roots and plant it in new soil with a helping or two of fertilizer,” was the advise of my green thumbed neighbour. “And then watch it for a year.” Gosh. On the day of the transplant, I walked past a beautiful orange tree potted in an amber planter in the window of a flower shop on Bloor Street that I’m sure the universe put there to tease me. “Take me home, forget the other one,” I heard it whisper. I nearly caved. I’m giving my little tree six months. I’ll need to see progress, even a tiny bit. Isn’t that what anyone needs to stay hopeful?

crockery

February 8, 2022

I stumbled upon Sophie Wilson’s ceramics today, handmade at home, and fired in a kiln in her laundry room. With so many makers painting, pinching, rolling and weaving at their kitchen tables these days, I’m always delighted to see what’s being made. Wilson’s work is really charming. It has a vintage feel, and could just as well have graced the tables of a 19th century mercato delle pulci. Inspired by “Matisse and the quickness in the way he painted”, Wilson’s surface decoration is light and whimsical. Have a scroll through her Instagram page; you’ll see what I mean.

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