I have been reminiscing a lot lately. I am not sure if it is the passing of my father, my daughter’s impending senior year or just the end of the school year. Whatever it is, I find myself smiling – a lot. I have such great memories. Rebuilding our fire pit reminds me of all of camping trips with my dad. I still love sitting by the fire talking with friends and family. The count down to the end of school reminds me of all of the amazing kids I was blessed to have worked with. Creating anything reminds me of watching my child grow up. My love of photography, I attribute to my dad. But all other art belongs to my daughter. When she was little, she loved to draw and paint. As I was painting the other day, I remembered our “Adventure Days” when we would wake up with no particular plan and do something spontaneous and special together. On the rainy winter days, we often found ourselves in The Ceramic Place (capitalized because that is actually the name) painting coffee mugs or Christmas ornaments. The owner, Marilyn, is so patient and kind. We would spend hours there. Marilyn, having watched me try to paint Celtic knots with disappointing results, showed me how to carve them in the ceramic glaze. I would lay down thick layers of colors on a ceramic tile and wait for them to dry completely. Then I would draw the design on the tile and begin slowly scraping away the layers to reveal the colors below.
Even though I knew what it was going to look like when I was done, there was something magical about scratching away the rough, plain surface to expose the beauty beneath. Under a magnifying glass, I would watch the thin needle as I scrape back and forth so carefully, drawing out each line. My eyes would cross, and my fingers ached. I would blow the dust away when it built up in tiny drifts along the edges. By the time I finished, my clothes would be covered in dust. All those colors came through the depths to create the image. Finally, it would be fired. In that blazing heat, the flat colors turned to liquid. What was nothing more than sand and dust became a rich glass.
That’s how life is really. We can stay on the surface where it is plain and dull. It takes no effort at all. You don’t get messy. The only pain is boredom or loneliness. But if you put some effort in; if you are willing to get a little messy; if you are willing to scratch beneath the surface- well that is where the beauty in life lies. Beneath the surface. And I have found that those parts of my life forged in a little fire are the most beautiful parts of all.
This piece took a very long time to carve. It is a replica of the Gateway Guardian mascot which I carved for my best friend. The picture on the left shows the tile prior to firing. The picture on the right shows the tile after firing.