Critter encounters have been a theme of my stay at SJU. I've heard loon calls nightly around midnight and a pair of loons calmly swam near me as I watched from shore. A swallow swooped in circular patterns that were nearly tangent to my own wingspan. A turtle worked hard digging a nest. A muskrat swam under the my feet as I stood on the dock. The bullfrogs make sure you hear them. I definitely saw a bald eagle fishing. Speaking of fishing, I printed fish on the dock. Colin and I relocated a bat. I waited for the geese to cross the road. A deer and I shared a moment by the lake. Pelicans slid through the sky. A stray cat trotted by the kiln and a racoon stared me down at the dumpster.
On my way into lunch on Thursday, Richard pointed out a group of guys carrying oranges. He told me that they regularly bowl their oranges down the road to see who can get closest to the wood shop door. ! soooo....
Midway through my final week as a "Jerome Scholar", I found myself sitting still. I can try to force the work, but it doesn't go well. I've learned to allow down time to happen. When I had incubated long enough, I had a very productive end of the week. This organic cycle is what I had been hoping to rediscover. Tea at 10am and 3pm daily schedules time to sit and think, exchange stories and have tasty treats. The stop helped the go.
The last 2 days yielded 7 new sculptures. They happened quickly thanks to some conceptual work I did in my sketchbook in prior weeks and an armature hack from August Rodin. I made an entire bag of clay into a tall cone shape sometime in the middle of the month and set it in the damp room. The concept is that clay can be built over the cone after it firms up a bit. The firm cone holds up the clay AND allows for easy removal by lifting the sculpture straight up. Clever, Rodin, clever. I used the same cone for 6 sculptures on Thursday and Friday. A heat gun sped up drying on the sculptures so I could lift them off faster. I actually saw the heat gun bisque some thin bits of clay...interesting.
The theme of these cone pieces was carrying/riding on shoulders. I explored the significance of the old "piggyback ride" relationship. It turned into something with huge potential. It can serve as a symbol for divine protection/guidance. It can speak about the "upstairs/downstairs" economic relationship. It can be about parenting or mentoring. It can be a picture of education. It can be about "standing on the shoulders of giants" and the benefits of having a foundation that others labored for. For me, it was mostly about being carried and cared for at the St. John's Pottery. At times I felt like an oblivious child and was thankful to have so much support. I enjoyed a fun ride and a majestic view thanks to decades of programming at the pottery and the financial backing of the Jerome Foundation. I was carried by Jerome Hill, the Benedictines, SJU staff, pottery staff, and Richard Bresnahan.
Serenade! At 3:00 tea on my last day at the pottery, we talked about the various musical instruments that various members of the studio could play. As usual, it was a lively conversation full of surprises from talented people. At about 4:32 Brandon strode into my work area with a guitar and said, "I'm gonna serenade ya." Except a break for supper, he played that guitar until 10:30. He was joined by Colin on Native American flute, ceramic ocarina, and improvised percussion. The two harmonized with gusto through Fleetwood Mac, Oasis, Goo Goo Dolls, and Wallflowers favorites. Brandon also had lots of fun putting a folksy twist on Kesha, Macklemore, and Jay-Z. We had even more fun inventing family-friendly edits. I didn't have words to express how much I would miss the pottery so on my last day, I worked like a maniac. I made 7 new sculptures in the last 2 days, but the serenade was a far more eloquent tribute. Joy and sorrow mingled in the air. This was a beautiful month in my life.