I've been busy the last 3 days, not so much in the studio, but working on new stitch patterns to incorporate into the next round of candle wraps and mugs. One of the things that I enjoy most about the entirety of the way this creative process synthesizes is that when I’m tired of having my hands in mud, or on days when my clay is having a temper tantrum and not wanting to do what I request, I can revert back to my knitting. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days when the yarn can be equally cantankerous! But the days when all three of us are crabby are few and far between, and it’s nice to have the freedom to flit between the two. Besides, if my hands are filled with yarn or covered in clay, there’s less chance I’m going to snack myself silly!
I’m grateful to have such a vast wealth of experience from which to draw. I have sets of needles that are used the most often. My favorites are those belonging to my mum. I remember her knitting a three-colored cape for me when I was at school, and prior to that, she knit me a blue boucle jumper (as in pinafore dress, not pullover) with an apple on the front. There’s a slight bend in one from when I sat on it one evening in one of my infamous ‘where’d my knitting needle go,’ moments. I knit toys for my friends and their children on these pins. I knit sweaters and clothes for my daughter and her dolls on them. There’s a history there, and when I use them, I’m transported back to those days.
Then there are the needles that belonged to my friend Debby’s mum. I never knew her, but I love my friend Debby, and when she gave me her mum's needles, she knew they were going to be respected and well used. They are, dear one, they are. These knitting needles can't conjure up memories of Debby’s mum for me, but they do remind me of Debby, and of the countless mornings we put the world to rights when we were in our 40s, back in Fleetwood. I still have a set of them in my desk drawer to send to Debby's daughter, so she can make delightful things for herself and her little one, and the cycle can continue.
Other pairs continue to tell the stories. The aluminum ones in the case came from my brother's Aunt Blanche. The red ones belonged to my friend Mark’s gran; she gave them to me during my days of church bell ringing throughout Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Then there are the short grey sets that belonged to my first husband’s Aunt Joan—not that they were her needles, but they came from her little village shop in Harlaxton, where I worked for several years, until it was sold. There are sets that were sent to me from an online friend, or which belonged to the mother-in-law of someone who was advertising them on Freecycle. I remember where all my needles came from, and always send fond thoughts to their previous owner whenever I search through them for the right size, or use them to create a specific fabric.
To someone else they may just be knitting needles, tools of a dying pastime, but to me they are echos of history. When I use them, I’m often transported back to those days, to places I thought I’d never be again and faces I never thought I’d see again. Would I trade where I am for those days? No, I don’t think I would. However, I know that the life I live now is made sweeter and richer because of those experiences, and I count myself very lucky—you could even say blessed—for the memories that have been created.
So, what’s on the knitting needles today? Today I’m finishing the last texture I want to try out in my clay (I'm a day behind schedule). It's part of a 'Scottish fleet' pattern, taken from an old fisherman's sweater from the 1800s. The texture is good, and the rhythm soothing to knit. I've been out in the glorious spring sunshine for awhile this morning; now it's time to get back to work!
You're on fire one way or another, aren't you? Either things are changing—positively or negatively—or something is happening to keep you on your toes. You're restless, or putting up with the restless energy of those around you. What gives?
Blame Uranus. Yeah, I know. Astrologers never get tired of Uranus jokes. However, this time it's not really a joking matter. Uranus takes something like 84 years to make an orbit around your birth chart, and at the moment it's leaving Aries and entering into Taurus. The Sun is also in Aries just now, preparing to launch into Taurus in less than a week. This means that, unless you're a toddler, this is the very last time to make the most of this Sun / Uranus conjunction in Aries.
"That's all well and good," I hear you say (because I'm psychic like that), "But what does it mean?" Well, any Sun / Uranus conjunction is always a time of change and excitement. You may be set free from something that's been holding you back, or perhaps you're less inhibited than usual. Aries always brings energy to any alignment taking place in its sign. The Sun is your personality, and Uranus represents the unpredictable, and the unexpected.
This alignment also has the potential to get you thinking outside the box as far as your philosophies on life and your personal belief systems are concerned. Uranus is thought to be the higher vibration of Saturn, and even though Uranus is nothing like the Old Goat when it comes to routine, they are both stubborn and willful. It's important that you tap into some of Saturn's discipline (which is retrograde in it's own sign of Capricorn at the moment) if you're going to make the most of this conjunction.
Pick your battles wisely these next couple three days. Stay open-minded, don't adhere to something just because you can; see whether it's really going to benefit you or not. You may be accident prone, or throw caution to the wind when you really should be acting more responsibly, and that won't do you any favors in the long run. There's a difference between assertiveness and aggression; the latter may have far-reaching repercussions, not all of them working to your advantage. This transit will be over in a few days, but the consequences from it will linger far longer.
What a silly title for a blog article! Well, bear with me, because hopefully by the end of my musings it will make sense—or not. My mind rarely functions within normal (what the hell is normal, anyway) parameters these days, and I'm okay with that.
My friend Carla recently turned me on to a blog by Spirit Cloth. In a recent entry she mused, "Nine works so well for framing, because it has a center." Something in my spirit started to sing. Pieces of the puzzle that I've been holding for the last 5 years, the last 20 years, maybe even longer, all of a sudden aren't just random bits that I'm sure have potential but I just can't see it, suddenly they're starting to fit together. It's exciting. It's invigorating. And aspects of it are mildly terrifying, too.
I've been tinkering around with the idea of tarot tiles for several years, now. I've even got some bisqued. Then what? That's always where I got stuck; what do I do with them? Smaller ones might be pretty cool pendants, and yes, after this weekend's art show, I'll be turning to that muse and seeing where we go. Larger ones could be desk ornaments or altar tiles or hung for wall art. Yes, lots of potential, but I always felt it was close, yet no cigar.
Then I read the quote about nine. Now, you have to understand that the numerologist in me also did a happy dance when I read that. The number nine is three 3s. It lifts the energy of three—which is very creative and optimistic, but not the most responsible of the single digits—up to a place where it's philosophical and enigmatic. I've always had a bit of a love affair with 9's energy... but I digress.
Let's hop back to the tarot (see how my mind works; it's no wonder I'm a list maker, it's the only way I ever get anything done). I do a reading called the Hero's Journey reading. Now, the Hero's Journey is the template of any story, when you break it down to its components. Your life is the same; you are the hero of your own story. This tarot card reading helps you to understand where you are in your own saga, so that you can deal with the different aspects in a more empowered and positive way. This is how you learn what this phase of your life is meant to be teaching your spirit.
The Hero's Journey is usually twelve steps, although I have seen diagrams of it only being eight. Returning back to the quote about nine having a center, well, we're the center of our own story. How well would that work for tarot tile murals?! Needless to say, I can't wait to get started. Don't worry. I'll be sure to include you as they progress!
Several years ago I had this idea to draw a tarot card in the morning and then let that be my theme of the day. Of course, that's not a new idea, people have been doing it for eons and there are several books on the matter. I messed around enough with the exercise that a book of my own was born (I have a contract with LLewellyn, and I'm currently in the middle of writing it, publication should be next year). However, my book isn't what this post is about.
I guess it's not really about the tarot, either, although that's probably the closest theme. See, back in the 1990s when I was living in England and working the folk festivals, I 'met' the Soul Cards, created by Deborah Koff-Chapin. I loved the free and organic movement in the images, and also the fact that they didn't have a LWB (little white book) that told you the definition of the cards. You were meant to let them speak to your soul. In those days I was an oracle junkie, and of course, I had to have them—both sets.
Fast forward to three years ago, when I was trying to find my muse and ignite a fire under her. My thoughts returned to the Soul Cards. What if, as well as drawing a tarot card and letting it be the theme of the day, I also drew a Soul Card, and let it be the theme of the mask or wall-art I was going to make that day. Oh, I had good intentions, but it wasn't until this morning that I actually got out the two decks, shuffled them together, and thoughtfully drew a card.
I was pleased with the result. In the past, when I've done readings with these decks, people have had an aversion to this card. They said it looked full of anguish, like someone screaming, perhaps in pain or turmoil.. I've always thought it looked like someone singing—but then, I've known since grade school that I didn't see the world through the same eyes as most other folks!
It's also pretty fitting for my mood, too. I'm tired. I'm tired of the weather. I'm ready for warmth. I'm ready for sun. I'm ready to have the studio doors open, rather than burning the propane heater.
I'm ready for more successes coming out of the kiln, too. I've got one glaze that doesn't even want to adhere to greenware, another that seems to bubble and froth and run everywhere when it's fired, and I'm not competent or experienced enough to know what is amiss and how to correct it. I thought that by purchasing commercial dipping glazes I might have avoided the need for a bunch of test tiles and experimentation but I guess I was wrong. Maybe it's the clay body. Maybe because they're Amaco glazes but not an Amaco clay body they're not compatible, but then, most of them were fine with Kentucky Mudworks clay previously. Sigh. I'm so pleased we did invest in the smaller kiln. Now at least there's a faster turnover, a quicker learning curve, and I've got the chance of pulling some successes out fairly frequently. I think these turned out rather well, don't you?
What a month!
Of course it's been the time of year to dance with the IRS, but I didn't expect to be going to three visitations—one of them being my own sister. There's that old cliche about 'death and taxes' being the only certainty in life, and dear gods, I've had my fill for awhile, now, thank you very much (are ya listening, universe)!
'They' also say that it's an ill wind that blows no good. Well, it's my philosophy to try to find some good in every situation, no matter what. For one thing, I got to see my daughter, and it's been a long time since Christmas. For another, this has given me time to reflect, and contemplate exactly what I want to be doing out in the pottery studio.
I left work in March to make my art full time. I'd been thinking about it for several months, and when they didn't renew my contract I took it as a sign to get out in the studio and do arty things. So far, so good. I have a new—smaller—kiln, and it's been kept busy since it's arrival ten days ago.
I've been beavering away, making test pieces and trying out new glaze combinations, and researching different decorating techniques. However, I've got this 'thing' that everything I make has to mean something. I guess it's the storyteller in me. I'm not one who can just randomly decorate something; the colors and symbols have to tell a tale. I don't want to be just another mug maker or plate painter, because life is richer than that.
I recalled my meeting with Taffy Thomas, and his 'tale coat,' a fantastic piece of work that has so many stories woven into it. To see Taffy in full garb, captivating children of all ages with his impromptu performance at a folk festival is one of the highlights of my life. Stories are meant to be told.
Once again, my mind turned back to the spirit houses of the dead that I saw when we went to Alaska all those years ago, and to the ongon—places or objects where Siberian shaman believe that their spirit helpers live. I thought about the death masks, and masks that embodied the spirits, and of the Kachinas and their likenesses. We humans seem to need a place to put disembodied beings!
When I got my hands back into the clay on Friday, I asked the clay what it wanted to be. It was fairly silent, so I putzed around making phone holders and wine bottle cork toppers. I even started three fairy houses. It wasn't until teatime that a mask finally jumped out of the clay, followed by the start of another one.
As Elton John once sang, The Bitch is Back. I believe I see where I'm going, at least for the time being. There are spirit houses to construct—and yes, they can still be fairy houses, for what are fairies if not nature spirits? There are masks to make, leafy 'green man' creations that may be a home of some kind to the dryads and other nature spirits. There are tiles and murals to create.
More than that, though, there are stories to be told, stories of the Wild Hunt, of the cycles of birth and life and death. There are creation stories, stories of the love affair between the Sun and the Moon, stories of the crystal in Uktena's forehead, and of Cerridwen's cauldron of poems. There are so many wonderful stories to share over and over again, stories of spirits and guides and deities, but also stories about the ancestors, and of the people who no longer walk this earth. These stories need to be told, lest they be forgotten. These spirits need a place where they can come to visit. Perhaps I can provide that in the clay that comes out of my kiln.