It's already March, yet this blog entry is my belated farewell 2015/welcome 2016 post. It's existed in my head for a while. Last year, 2015, was a big one for me and I wanted to give it some acknowledgement here. Of all the significant events (and there were some stressful, some exciting, some joyful and some testing - more than the typical quota for one year) the most profound was also the saddest. My good friend, Emmaline, died June 1st 2015. She had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 16 months earlier, just days after her second child was born.
This is a ceramics studio blog and I mention this very personal loss here because it has taken my ceramic practice to some important new places where meanings are rich and layered. I think my experiences last year allowed me to find deeper significance in the process of making objects by hand.
Emmaline's partner, Rainer, found some very sensitive ways to create meaningful ceremony around her death. One occasion for such ceremony was a memorial service and scattering of Em's ashes several months after the funeral. Rainer, after deciding that her ashes would be scattered under a she-oak tree at a much loved coastal site, asked me to make a vessel to hold her ashes and carry them to the beach memorial service. Rainer didn't want the vessel to be just an urn, but conceived that it could also function as a vase for foliage collected in months and years to come. He knew that I had been experimenting with she-oak foliage marks impressed on vessels and he asked that the special vessel for Em's ashes have impressions of the foliage he had collected already from the chosen tree.
This project was, in honesty, a stretch for my abilities at that time. The size of vessel required was greater than what I was comfortable handling on the wheel and I had the date of the ceremony as a very definite deadline. I made a group of vessels, as large as I could manage, and the making was a very special time of reflection. Em's ashes were carried by three vessels, one scattered by Rainer and his two girls, one by Em's brother, and one by her parents. Two extra vessels are kept by Rainer for each of his girls to have when they are older.
Emmaline had a deep appreciation of ceramics and was a truely wonderful support as I took my first tentative steps in making, selling and developing my skills with clay. One of the last times I saw her was at a craft market where I had a stall. Despite the great effort it required for her to get around at that stage, she came along and bought some little coloured cups for her home. It meant a lot to me and I love seeing those cups in use. Emmaline would have loved to have made more pots herself and with sadness and gratitude I acknowledge that her longing for ceramics has given my own searching as a maker more weight and purpose.
All the images in this post were taken by Tobias Titz, a photographer and good friend of Rainer and Emmaline (thank you to Rainer for letting me use them). Emmaline wrote a beautiful blog about her illness and Rainer added to this after her death. You can read it here: http://www.aloquattree.net/
Thank you to Rainer for asking me to make these vessels. I am currently working on some other pieces for Rainer and will post about them some other time. A happy and peaceful 2016 to all.