Travels in pottery

Arriving back in the studio after a substantial time away in various parts of Asia, I thought I’d post up a little taste of the visual plenty from the trip, starting with of one of my favourite places – Bhaktapur.

This town in Nepal is a mediaeval city with a very strong artisanal tradition and a charming and laidback approach to life. Only an hour from the craziness of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is full of friendliness and a lively traditional, and very visible, culture. It’s a Newari city and it has it’s own special caste of potters – the Prajapatis. Historically this was a very low caste but it was heartening to meet young potters raising their heads high and proudly continuing their traditional heritage for a new era. By embracing social media, finding out about new techniques and researching new niches in their business they are moving away from occupying a challenging strata of society as the demand for simple bisque-fired, purely functional, single-use pots slowly dwindles. Below is an example of a traditional urn, situated on a street-corner sitting area:

Bhaktapur ancient pot

I had the privilege of watching and engaging with a remarkable master potter too. His ‘studio’ is simply an unsheltered area of a backstreet off Potters’ Square, next to some rudimentary storage space for his goods and materials. He works in the traditional style, throwing functional homewares such as rakshi brewing apparatus as well as myriad moneyboxes, as seen below – each of these pots is thrown in less than a minute on his huge momentum wheel, which is simply stirred into action with a wooden staff:

master at work

Pots drying in the square – these are for the local market and are functional pots for use in the home:

drying in potters square

Here a potter tends to one of the wood-fired kilns, before getting ready for the next firing. In preparation, women file through the square bearing huge bundles of straw to pack around the pots. Beneath is a shot of a kiln ready to fire. How the whole district doesn’t go up in flames I have no idea:wood firingready to fire

Pots of yoghurt stacked in a traditional curd shop. A buffalo milk delicacy, cooling earthenware bowls are still the preferred vessels to sell in – sadly they are discarded after use:

curd bowls

Below are some more shots of the square. You can see the huge stack of straw ready to be transported to the kiln firing buildings; pots ready for sale; pots drying out in the sun, each maker arranging them in a perfect grid of work; there is even pottery graffiti on a wall as you enter the Potter’s Square:

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I would love to spend more time here and feel the whole process from start to finish and speak to more of the traditional artisans still at work.

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Dragonflies and Thistles

Had the pleasure of going home to Fife for a week last month and took up a load of wares and commissions to show and sell to friends and family. Aside from the excitement of our triple birthday (me, my dad and my brother-in-law share the same date and traditionally blow out our candles together, something I wouldn’t miss for the world), it was great to share what I’ve been doing over the past 6 months with everyone.

dragonlies in flight lo

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Birds of my dreams

Embarking on drawings last year… trying to remember what it was like to produce pictures that felt good.  Some birds happened…. and I like them.  I think both of them capture an idea of freedom – freedom to see the world as you want, freedom to fly in whatever situation you are in, freedom to take the best from everything…. some ideas I needed to engage with, and its good to be reminded of them now and again. So here are the blackbird and the collared dove.

blackbird saw 1 lo even the caged birds singdrawings © Bee hayes/as the crow flies 2013.

Afterparty

well… what a weekend, an emergence from hibernation, a getting together of many beautiful people, a whooping up, a gathering of far flung folks before they spin off into the wider world, unlikely to ever be all in the same room together again… what a thought.  It seems Bristol is emptying; a diaspora of its own diasporees… Alice and Matthaeus were back for a few days of triumphant post-wedding multiplicitousness, expecting twins to pop out in but a few months.  How lovely, how ‘normal’ to have them here, ready to meet for teas, dinners, drinks, saunas, chats.  Still, Munich is now their home – in fact, I must get back on the bandwagon and try to procure some tickets to see them before too long.  Kate and Ollie, our illustrious Canadians, not forgetting Fin, soon to resume being Canadian, are presently leavinge for pastures old and new in the east of Canada…

What a party they had last Friday.  The Polish Club, resplendent with its 1970s Polish football club posters above the bar, long-suffering bar staff and capacious dance floor held the first leg of the farewell tour…which later took us to the horror of Luna Clifton, a positively frightening club beneath the 10 o’clock shop, full of well-watered ladies in the twilight of their middle years sporting a uniform of ill-advised t-shirt dresses, peroxide or jet black coiffures and craggy facepaint… and finally to Ben Neighbour’s flat to waken the dead until 5am, entertaining ourselves with a plethora of fine hats…amongst other frivolities. I was proud to be the last person to wish Ollie goodnight, given my rare all-night party record.

I found it difficult to wear many of the hats at Ben Neighbour’s house due to my being dressed as a snowflake (dress code: what does Canada make you think of?), with a large pastry cutter lashed to my head, amongst other things… this is what I found left of the melted snowflake girl on the morrow…

Gleaning

The Gleaners and I – by Agnes Varda…

An amazing film shown by Bristol Indymedia at the Cube.  It threw up so many thought provoking images…. hands – and how they are us; reflections of ourself that we can look at; the tools we use to interact with the world and use things, objects; touch people and things; gesture and speak without words.  The ways in which people all over interact with waste products – objects left over from the lives and functions of another person or people, objects that take on new meanings when re-appropriated and re-purposed.

To glean: to gather things carefully; to sift out useful remnants of stuff or information.

I like this idea of careful finding – of interpretation through sorting, picking up ends and strands and forming new life or opinions through them.  Its how I used to work at university – gleaning the books I needed by slowly reading the titles of all the spines of the books in all the sections i liked the sound of.  Its how I interact with nature – slowly sifting my way through beaches for shells left by creatures, softened glass and ceramics left by people  and mediated by the sea; hunting through woods and fields for berries and leaves and flowers to eat or dry or just look at.  Its how i prefer to attain things – the rummaging in car boot sales, thrift shops, skips, stuff on the street and finding the things that perfectly dovetail into what you want your life to look like without having to look to corporations to tell you what you needed.  Its how find what I am doing, by stumbling across things, letting connections happen and finding slowly the things that i need or want to do and make time for.  I love to glean – words, poetry, knowledge, artefacts, recipes, images, foods, people, clothes, music: everything gains a certain richness through being a found object – something that others didn’t notice or discarded because they didn’t realise the value or potential.  Perhaps that’s part of the fun, the secret knowledge of having got something that others missed.  Of having found satisfaction in something that had been left by the wayside.  Treasure hunting!  Its second nature to me and beautiful to see a whole film full of people who get by in life through treasure hunting – whether via necessity, ethics or a simple desire for the unusual.  This lady, Agnes Varda has a really true and unique perspective on the world, a magpie collector of ideas, situations and tiny life stories that are happening all around her, and all of us in fact.

snuck out one night. stole the spots off the backs of the fawns.

they are needed to ease troubled minds. – Mariee Sioux on gleaning

key to photos: gleaned fruit; gleaned patterns; house full of gleanings.

adventuring…

Well, despite getting my camera all happy and serviced last week I didn’t take it out with me this weekend on my numerous adventures around the cube, stokes croft street fest, the lido, the dancing-round-your-living-room party, leigh woods, more lido and easton.  So here is a picture of some pea soup i made recently – it has the tenuous connection of being the last time I picked wild garlic in the woods which i also did today… and its the kind of thing that people seem to expect from blogs.  Utterly irrelevant.

Trying to sift out all i wrote today and make something sweet and beautiful out of it before my untidy mind and inbuilt nihilism make it feel ragged and tired and less worthwhile.  Lone soul wandering I find myself on a word journey.  Parcels of words seem to flock together in a way while cycling through woodlands that forces me stop and record them every time I come to a patch of sunlight in trees.  Often I smile into the air to myself at thoughts I’m having; little impromptu incarnations of the now, recessed and looked at through the inner kaleidoscope.  The world refracted through me – no-one else will ever know it.

Navel-gazey morning drinking coffee on the sunlit sofa turns into navel-gazey afternoon on two wheels; passing through woods and suburbs, by turns the rankling whiffs of sun-stewed car upholstery and the divine breaths of hot mayflower from the froth-blossomed hawthorn.  I am happier than I was Thurs/Friday:  I have met new people and old faces; bumped into nascent frineds; spent time with good friends who I see little and had unannounced visits from best soul mates.  I need these little pots of interaction to stand me as fuel for the solitary days.  Fill my mind with something to think about, turn over… the trouble is, I love to wallow in melancholia, touch everything with an elegiac mournfulness – and what better day to wallow than a sultry sunday afternoon?  Its definitely some kind of perverse pleasure in life but i need to keep a hold of when to put the brakes on, when to stop my malicious psyche turning these things into sources of self doubt.  I met someone on Friday whose collarbones proclaimed that ‘everything in life is a balloon’.  I love this thought – it has so many uses.  Think i need to internalise this idea as a possibility.  Remember that everything can be filled with air and let go on the breeze and that its all brightly coloured and beautiful; shiny and transient.  (ok, go no further missy, stop envisaging the sad balloons in the corner of the party that are half-deflated and a little baggy around the edges…)

I can’t make sense of my two sides, the creature of such terminally tragic thoughts walks hand in hand with the self-reliant entity wrapped up in my own impenetrable world which no-one sees.  Sometimes I am both all at once.  I wonder if it is the fear that no-one might ever discover what I really think that creates these vacuums of dystopia that I can disappear into for days….

Its all about nature at the moment.  My senses are filled with hawthorn flowers.  I wrote a list of things I like today, including finding slow worms, and an hour later found one curved in a flourish on the path in front of me.  A big beetle hit me in the face as I cycled.  A bumble bee was swept up as I biked into its trajectory.  Kate and I decided that my flat is on the Maybug flight path due to all their unwanted clumsy buzzing traffic through the wide open windows.  I look up from beside the fishing pond at Pill and all I can see are oak leaves in the most intense shades of luminous green and shadow black against a sunlit sky of pale eye-blue. The path along the river is all glaring yellow hedgerow flowers which I try and fail to pick with my left hand as i cycle, blue horizons, thick grasses and hazy rolling flats.

I have had the most fantastic of ear worms today, so good I sing along as I ride my bike too fast for a winding pedestrian sunday path.  Air Algiers by Country Joe, ‘hopped on a plane from oakland new york, oakland new york, new york to marseilles, hopped on a plane oakland new york to marseilles, pigs on my trail, hey I got to make my get away.  I got a one way ticket, I’m flying air algiers; think i’ll go to the Kasbah, cool it for a couple of years’  and Blackbird by the Beatles, ‘blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings* and learn to fly, you were only waiting for this moment to be free, black bird fly, into the light of a dark black night.’ (* i always wondered if the bird had broken wings already and was being told to go out and fly them anyway or if it was being given broken wings as a present…not sure which is the sadder picture in my head)

Chance and felicity smiled on me yesterday as I went several times to the door of the cube and rang the bell to retrieve my lost phone… i was met each time with the pitch black square letter box of silence until I was rescue by an unscheduled keyholder…would have been quite a different weekend if i had been incommunicado for the whole time. i shudder to think, and shudder to be so dependent on such a little slip of black plastic wizardry.

thoughts on nothing

Found these two quotes on this rather good blog entry from local art project Central Reservation:

*As Susan Sontag said, silence is never pure, after all, your heart is always beating.

*Nothing seems to me the most potent thing in the world – Robert Barry, 1968

Feeling in a mood just to share words I like rather than writing in a coherent fashion.  The above quotes seem to set the mood.  My favourite song lyrics have to include Tales from Black by Tunng, they are so laden with sadness and enigma…I like the line that hints at the deep rooted knowledge that when they find her and lock her up, that’s it.  no escape.  grind down the key…  is it because of inherent distrust of the self and knowledge of a capacity for badness or because of a knowledge of the inherent unfairness and lack of understanding of the outside world?  Or is it part of a deep seated myth of the dark side of women propagated by the church, propped up by myth, reaffirmed in popular culture… Brings to mind the Led Zep song Dazed and Confused: Been dazed and confused for so long, it’s not true/Wanted a woman, never bargained for you/Lots of people talkin’, few of them know/Soul of a woman was created below.  I must say, disagree with all this inspiration towards misogyny as I emphatically do, the idea of female stealth and wisdom being far above the capacity of the male  ego is somewhat appealing…

Anyway, this is Tales from Black:

    She washes all the young blood from her hands in the sink
    And she knows that the lights will be there for her
    Breaks down the bodies to dark subtle ink
    And she scrawls on the parchments that hang in the air

 

    She rides a horse over stones in the night
    And she closes her eyes and lets go of the reigns
    She knows the radios run through the night
    And she knows that the lights leave the prettiest stains

 

    She builds a shrine and a typing machine
    And she curls up to write down her tales from the black
    Prays for a soft breeze and cool gentle rain
    And she prays for the bodies that rise slowly back

 

    She knows the dunes where the steel cities grow
    And she knows when they jail her they’ll grind down the key
    She knows the lights lay the heaviest blows
    And she knows that the sand must submit to the sea

 

    She builds a bird out of plywood and gold
    For to carry the old souls on up to the sun
    Turns on the TV and sits in the cold
    And she dreams that sometimes she’s the prettiest one

 

    She knows the thrill of the chase in her veins
    And she knows that the sinking’s a trick of the light
    Prays for the silence and cool gentle rain
    And she prays that the radios run through the night

And just for sheer entertainment value because his writing makes me laugh, here is a small excerpt from Silas Wynd’s invite to “the party that no-one remembers”.  masterful…

I Drink Because I Like It & Because I Don’t Like You When I’m Sober. You’re Prettier When I’m Drunk. I’m Richer When I’m Drunk And If You don’t Like Me You Can Fuck Off & I’ll Bother Someone Else. It Doesn’t Matter Where I am or What I’m Doing, What I’m Wearing or Where Tomorrow Is. It’s a Party and There’s Drink and There’s Boys & There’s Girls And Some of Us Know Each Other And Some of Us Don’t. We May Be Friends, For The Night or For Life, We May Mate, In The Toilets, On The Stairs in The Bushes, On The Beach in The House, In the Car, It May be Just Once, It May Not Be Fun. But One Day It’ll Be Beautiful & I’ll Look Into Your Eyes And Know I’ve Mated For Life. If You, Any of You, There’s So Many of You Now, Had Known That Too I Wouldn’t Be here And I Wouldn’t Be Asking You To Join Me. I’d Be At Home in Bed in Our House in The Country, By the Sea, With Our Children, Dog, Cat, Pony, Chickens, maybe a couple of Horses, Allotment & Orchid House, Volvo on The Drive And Worries About Next Terms School Fees, And Wondering When I’ll Next Have A Minute To Myself For a Wank.

having so much fun with photos…

well, what a day of fun…virtually unheard of in recent months at work (sorry LBL, very disloyal, but have any of us been having fun?).  I even got to work within the realms of 9am just at the prospect of spending the afternoon waltzing round Montpelier park attempting to create funkalicious photos with which to populate a schools’ education pack i am designing… Not the most usual LBL activity.

So, after a morning of the usual stuff I met up with my friend Sy and went to take photos of his skate shoes…  I’ve never tried taking portrait shots before, weirdly its actually more self-conscious making being behind the lens than in front of it as you have to be in charge of the situation and have avision of what you want to create and then communicate that.  I think in retrospect I may stick to the very large repertoire of inanimate, or at the very least mute, subjects available in the world so that they can’t scrutinise my techniques.  However, the results were pretty good.  Also think I need to move away from the fish-eye lens fascination as, entertaining though it is, the novelty is bound to wear thin at some juncture.

Sarah, LBL’s wonderful intern who I have discovered writes a very delicious looking blog about tea and cakes and all things nice, was extremely obliging and ditched her beautiful floral gear to climb into her brother’s swimming shorts and boyfriend’s cricket jumper and proceeded to gamely jump off climbing frames…What the results of this will all say to today’s disaffected teen in terms of cool I am not entirely sure but I think the photos look great.  Whoop whoop, how to sell the idea of ethical sportswear production using two people who are not exactly ambassadors of sporting prowess or urban nike-toting bling.  Oh well, making good use of sunshiney afternoons is always a good thing.

and so may begins…

today in Leigh Woods… the beech trees are blessed with the palest lime green or copper pink leaves, screaming out their newness against a carpet of resilient autumn orange.  Knee deep in wild garlic listening to the birds i felt the healing power of the outdoors soothing my bruised soul; not the most momentously cheerful of bank holiday weekends but i’m not going to digress into navel gazing wallow…  Saw pink and red campions, garlic mustard, dog’s mercury, the nascent blue glow of imminent bluebell groves alongside the fairy whiteness of ramsons’ star flowers dominating patches of the woodlands.  photo below of primroses from westonbirt last weekend; an entirely springful day full of primrose and cherry blossom, violets, lesser celandine, speedwell and wood anemones…

Last night i volunteered at the cube cinema for a showing of the Coca-Cola Case -a really inspiring film about the ongoing trial and negotiations of a group of Colombian trade unionists (Sinaltrainal) attempting to bring the despicable giant to book over massive human rights violations and their implication in paramilitary killings of trade unionist leaders and members.  Sadly the young workers for the local bottling plant perceive the union to be the preserve of the old and, reading between the lines, those with less to lose – depressing attitude when they then reveal that they make $1 per hour and work 15 hours each day…

Quite a battle; in the end the trade union members refuse their hard won offer of pots of dirty dollars because of the attached restrictions and clauses that would impede the integrity of their union actions.  The film was mainly an uplifting documentary of the fairly successful struggle of oppressed workers against an unscrupulous corporation but there were 2 highly demoralising moments:  one was watching a bunch of pathetic fat american students wearing sandwich boards proclaiming things like ‘we love coke’, ‘fuck human rights’ (yes, really!!), when activists on campus tried to ban the drink in light of the company’s widespread labour and human rights violations across the globe… oh dear.  The other was witnessing an American court discrediting an extremely hard working human rights lawyer by mentioning that he had a poster of Che Guevara in his office…

Live skype discussion with Ray Rogers followed the film; he has been running the Killer Coke campaign since the mid-noughties so that was interesting.  Still intrigued, as a worker for a labour rights campaign, as to how he and his comrades scrape together the funding to front such a huge and successful campaign.  Mild envy given LBL’s parlous financial state…

objects 1

patterns and colours

beachcombings on the Isles of Scilly… i love to arrange and look at all the colours and patterns and histories and stories in the shards of beauty i find on the shore. sometimes it takes patience and concentration, lost in a world of sifting and staring at the ground; i have to force myself to look up and take in my surroundings. why this constant search for treasure and colour? i don’t know..

the egg

an egg in hand, not sure where i took this but i like it…

 

Some wistful old beachcombing work…

Mirrors, mirrors on the wall… pretty and desolate, ephemera covered mirrors with relics washed up by the sea.  I love the ground down, faded quality of objects disgorged by the waves.