I felt something was wrong for weeks.
I sensed it when I first reached out to an old, dear friend, months ago. I was relieved to find she was glad to hear from me. Yet no new messages followed.
We hadn’t parted on bad terms, really. Oh, I look back and cringe when I see how I sometimes took her friendship for granted. And how I pushed–too much–for her to get her art out into the world.
She was my Wise Woman friend for years, as I slowly broke out of my eggshell beliefs that I wasn’t good enough to be a real artist. She was in my first “artist retreat”, a workshop led by another Wise Woman, about how to find true support from a small circle of trusted cohorts. We would celebrate each others’ successes when the world noticed us. We would raise each other up when the world took us down a peg.
As I grew more confident, and knowledgeable (I thought), I began to urge her to be more visible in the world.
It’s easy to believe we know better than others. I felt I knew what was best for her. And she (rightly so) resisted, firmly.
So we drifted gently apart for awhile. And then both of us eventually moved thousands of miles away, until we both found ourselves out West, me on in Northern California, her in Nevada.
My early blog posts and personal journals are filled with her words of wisdom. She taught me so much. She could be so honest, it hurt. But not in a mean way. In a way that held my feet firmly to the fire of my own self-doubt and whine-iness. (Yes, I’m a bit of a whiner. There. I said it.) Because of her, I began to grow a backbone. (Still growing. Not done yet.)
In a few small ways, I helped her, too. She is a potter, specializing in pit-fired vessels. Determined to be professional in every way, she asked us (our group) for help to build a body of work for exhibiting and selling.
After several suggestions were shot down, I thought to ask her this question: What is your production process now?
She explained how, when her husband got home from work, they would eat dinner and watch TV together in their warm and cozy den, and talk. Every night, almost without fail. She hated working in her basement studio, alone. She wanted to be with Bob, and so she chose him.
As they sat, she worked a lump of clay, turning it into a beautiful hand-pinched pot, ready for the kiln.
“Every night?” I asked her.
“And every one is a good one? Good enough to exhibit, or sell?”
“So at the end of a year, you have over 300 good pots?”
“Is that enough for a year’s worth of exhibits and sales?”
So she had a reliable process that slowly-but-steadily created a beautiful, substantial body of work. Why would she mess with that??
She said it didn’t sound very professional. She felt she was doing it wrong.
I hope in this single, small way, I helped her realize that any way you get your work made, and out into the world, is ‘professional’ enough.
So today I just learned that her husband died.
Almost half a century together. So many years. So much love.
I took her pots out today. I only have a few, but I treasure them.
And when I look into the graceful swirling edges, the haunting mystery of their interiors, the hand-polished exteriors, everything of her hands and fingertips, their shared hours of companionship, togetherness, a life built from fragile–yet resilient–human clay, filled with laughter, and children, and family, and friends, and home, and art.
Each pot, made with love, surrounded by love, infused with love.
This is love.
Today’s Fine Art Views column shows how a slightly different story can help you out of the rut you fell into since your last New Year’s resolution: Lessons from the Gym: Poor Old Michael Finnegan
My latest post for Fine Art Views helps you put everything into perspective about your art career. And, maybe, your life.