Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Flux and Flow of Objects and Thoughts

I am thinking a lot about the cover of my forthcoming composite novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere. And as I’ve been thinking, images of Annemiek’s bowls started springing to mind. I passed by a shop full of fabric the other day and again, I thought of the bowls.

What was it that I was specifically thinking about? It was all about movement. Yes, the bowls are static in themselves .... Or at least when they are finally created they are static, but during the process of creation, they are dynamic, in flow, in flux even. And also – and here is where it links in for me with the cover of my book-to-be – when they are “produced” they return to some sort of flux.

It’s the equivalent of the writer/reader relationship that theorists like Roland Barthes talked about. In the selling of the bowls and the transference of ownership something new is created – many multiples movement and of newness – which is captured most wonderfully by Annemiek’s image of butterflies.

It is nearing autumn again and even if Annemiek can’t make a trip to Ireland I will take a walk in the Botanic Gardens and write a little piece or two...

...and start a new challenge of flux and creation.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Where we started out....Lucky Horseshoe & Storybowl

I'm taken by differences in the use of bright colour and imagery (lots of light) now and from where we started out. We started last autumn, when the sky was (marginally!) greyer, thoughts were moving towards winter......

This is where we started:

Lucky Horseshoe by Shauna Busto Gilligan

Her husband, after months of procrastination about whether it would be unlucky or not, finally fixed the silver horseshoe to the front of the car, just above the grill, just below the registration plate.

“Look,” he said to her, pride shining in his smile. “Look how it glows.”

And she nodded, watching how his head cocked to the left, ever so slightly and aware suddenly that he had a look of a magpie about him as he observed her. She smiled, then, pausing.

“You’ve polished it nicely,” she said.

He hugged her, his arms lingering, like he knew how much effort it had taken for her to speak.

“Are you taking it for a drive?” she asked, mimicking him with a turn of her head, looking at the way the metallic paint shone in the sun. The car was slim and long and sliver. His hair matched and his wiry frame made him look like he had come as an upgraded accessory with the car.

“Coming?” he asked in reply. “I’ll just go up the road a bit, see if I can catch any pheasants.”

“You’re alright,” she said, her heart beginning to pound. He had been right not to use the horseshoe until now, she realised, it would do nothing but undo all his good luck. “I’ll get going on the dinner, then.”

“Okay.” He paused, half-in, half-out of the silver beast. “I do love you, you, know.”

“And I love you.”

She turned away and walked into the tall house. She would cope with whatever the horseshoe brought. It would be okay. She paused, thinking she would create her own luck in her own time, before climbing the steep steps to her favourite wooden chair, old and square. She would sit a while, and look out the window at the roads winding, squashed between the hedgerows, greenness splashed everywhere. Perhaps, she thought, she might even spot the fleck of silver in the distance as the land swallowed it whole.


That was the story Annemiek responded to with the story bowl (below). The car in the story was silver but what most struck Annemiek was the image of the winding roads in the distance.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Butterfly and The Circus

Here I am, at my first ever circus. There are many reasons, too numerous to list, why it’s my first at nearly 40 years of age. Between moral objections and no desire whatsoever ...

But I’m not in 1980s Dublin, like the book I’m reading You by Nuala Ní Chonchuír, I’m here in Northern Spain, where there’s been three days of rain and everything is green, nearly as green as Ireland.

But today the sun is blazing.


There’s been talk, this last week, of the circus coming to town. Except this is a village which has swelled with tourists and returned emigrants to a the size of a small town. Everyone is going, including the village gossips. Tickets are 5 euro for kids and 10 for adults. Bargain, I am told, repeatedly. Our tickets are laminated cards which say "5" or "10" in the centre of a red circle, like the one inside the tent.

It’s a French circus, I believe judging by the number of French flags flying – flags about one and a half times larger than the Spanish. And it’s tiny, a round red tent which makes me feel like I’m in some strange Italian film out of the ‘50s.

And I’m sitting like a man, legs sprawled, listening to Amy Winehouse (God Rest Her Soul) on a wooden bench barely big enough for my 7 year old who sits in front of me, her first ever circus, too.

There’s a girl in a midnight blue glittering costume selling plastic transparent sticks filled with more glitter, sand and some sort of flashing light. I watch her lips move to Winehouse’s “Rebhab” and think she can’t be more than ten at the very most.

They’re selling popcorn from a pretty old looking machine, a circle of lollipops chocolate coconuts minerals and water. The popcorn is particularly attractive to this mixed crowd which includes babies in their Sunday best and the village gossip, a tiny woman with particularly beady eyes, seated proudly centre stage.

First on comes the lovely Alice (pronounced A-leese) on a tightrope. She makes an appearance later in a gold lame bikini on a circular contraption which comes down from the ceiling.

Along with the lovely Alice there is Pepino the clown, a boy of about 11 who dances to benny hill music. There is an anouncement that the girl who keeps about 20 different coloured hoola hoops in motion is only 8 years of age and I recognise her as the girl who sang along to Amy Whinehouse songs.

There are various small animals: goats, ponies and then snakes. Three different snakes and when the compare announces that we can touch them there is near hysteria because everyone wants to touch them.

“Toca, no pasa nada,” the comper repeats over and over. Touch, nothing will happen.

It is the idea of touch, touching the cold animal that reminds me of the butterflies Annemiek created.

Most of the holidays were spent chasing them – mainly white ones – across sloping grasses which led to the sand.

“Mariposa,” the children shouted. Butterfly!

And I watch them ahead of me, thinking of the butterflies of the bowl, in their absence free, free, free.

And I decide that no matter how many people from the village are going to the circus, no matter how much my children beg, beg, beg me to bring them, that next time the part of the wooden benches where we sat will be vacant.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First bowl finished

Finally, finally here the pictures of the finished bowl.

I'll be making more butterflies for sure, as I like to idea Shauna mentioned of stringing them to hang from the cycling or so. Much like my stars, could be another project for my yearly ceramic week in France.....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carving and Keeping - of butterflies and hope

I feel a little nostalgic these days, looking back on a trip to Nashville, I remember the fizz and the sweetness on my tongue of my fantastic drink (photo above). I'm reading Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and I wonder if this is what has triggered the sense of nostalgia. I think, then, of the connections - the world between the pages and distant sensory memories (the fizz of cola, the cold of the ice-cream, the heat of the burning sun) - and think again of the carving and keeping of shapes, of butterflies.

I wonder if Annemiek will keep the butterflies she has carved out.

The bowl they will have created will have a purpose and a meaning, after all. But the butterflies….?

I see them on a transparent string hanging in front of a window where the sun shines in, too bright to look at. There, they have found themselves: they are literally themselves.

Shapes of butterflies in the air, glinting (I think: she’ll paint one a metallic silver, the other a metallic gold – the moon and the sun).

Glinting, glinting, glinting.

Hope, hopefully, hope.

In each turn of the head there is a turn back, a way back, an antidote. In each (form) that is taken away there is a lasting image, a memory. A memory of love. A memory of hope. After all, “Nothing is lost, when all in love lives on.” (Quote © Adele Ward, “For My Mother” from Never-Never Land (Bristol: Bluechrome Publishing, 2009)

And with spring there comes the promise of those butterflies, they are readying themselves now, waiting for the time only when it is right, waiting as timing is everything. And my story “Possessions” now ends with hope. The Ward Sister senses hope in the struggle the patient makes against an antidote to the overdose being administered. I write:

She sneaked a smile. This was good. He was fighting.

“Bless you, my child,” she said, her voice melodic with sorrow.

© Shauna Busto Gilligan except where indicated.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

From despair to hope

Though the picture I had painted with my words was bleak, in it, Annemiek had picked up on the glimmer of hope. Out of despair comes hope; a constant, the other face of fear is hope.
This is something, of course, that organisations working in mental health and suicide prevention such as the wonderful SOS (suicide or survive) concur with. There is always hope.
Even when one thinks of going or when one has gone…somehow the human impulse is to find hope. And this, of course, is what Annemiek captured so well in her escaped butterflies and, even more striking, the imprint of what once was: the butterflies gone.
On Saturday the sun shone.
I lay back on the bed watching the sun on the bare-with-buds-branches. I read an entire poetry collection.
I hadn’t intended to. But the words drew me in.
From the wonderfully captivating title Never-Never Land I felt I had noiselessly landed in a place where words and sun spoke together.
The words on the pages and the sun that hit my eyes (I even held the book up to block it; to block that which I had been longing, longing, longing to see after the grey nothingness of winter). I wanted the words and the sun to speak; I was looking for meaning.
“When they can’t see me” held echoes of the disconnectedness that Sylvia Plath also expresses and that I have often felt. The narrator steps outside and observes her life from the garden through sliding glass doors.
            Everything is noiseless,
all framed like a scene from
somebody else’s domestic drama
on television, with the sound on mute.
(© Adele Ward, “When they can’t see me” from Never-Never Land (Bristol: Bluechrome Publishing, 2009)

Despite the disconnection, however, there is a quiet, steady hope. And it was through these poems that I was brought back to Annemiek’s butterflies cutting their way out of their ceramic entrapment.
I felt a sameness in the way we take meaning out of the things and people we possess. These things we possess – objects, live things, imagined things – are momentary and yet also lasting. Out of sight does not always mean out of mind as the saying goes. There can be deep connections between worlds and people we are told to believe are separate and unrelated.
In “Piazza Bande Nere” the narrator watches a prostitute while also watching over her sleepless baby. There is a beautiful unspoken affinity between the two women.
I worry over your empty slab
until your stilettos cross it and you
squat by a tree,
roll up your hem like a stocking
and clean out the last client.
2am. I put my baby in his cot
then stay here with you.
(© Adele Ward, “Pizza Bande Nere” from Never-Never Land (Bristol: Bluechrome Publishing, 2009)
And I thought again about the butterflies and how we always concentrate on their transformation into beauty. But beauty can also be lost. It is as fragile as life itself.
There is beauty, there is love...then there is not. There is freedom, something we take for granted and then as quick as we imagine a butterfly, it is gone: possession wiped away.
It is at that moment – the second we believe that we don’t have freedom – that the light goes. Somehow – as in my story “Possessions” – we are left with a list of possessions that amount to the clothes on our backs. But out of that list, the symbol of not possessing there is, still hope. Out of despair there is always possibility....
© Shauna Busto Gilligan except where indicated.

Bath and Butterflies

I wondered what Annemiek would make of my daring challenge.
I thought about the fact that we had adopted an unspoken rule of communicating via the blog rather than discussing how we would proceed or what we hoped to get done by a particular time. We let – in essence – the creativity lead the process and the time. And yet, it seemed to take a lot of strength or courage to do this – to communicate via a world wide web. Part of it, somehow, seemed unnatural or at odds with the process of combined creativity. Or collaboration.
And yet, seeing such a surge of response – something tangible, concrete something (unlike how I see words!) real made me realize that yes this to-and-fro business of stabbing in the dark does and is working.
Butterflies are, to many, a sign of hope. They are an emergence of something.
They literally are a growth, a becoming, an emergence of beauty from something which-is-not, which is doubtful and not-permanent in its form – from caterpillar to butterfly; despair to hope.
An image of a hill in Bath, England comes to mind: a circular row of houses, a view of the city, the sulphur of the baths, a movement or shift in the atmosphere, a becoming beauty. It's a memory from walking through this beautiful city in Somerset, something that the butterflies or the idea of butterflies has triggered.....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Possessions are like butterflies

Reflecting on Shauna's line of thought in the previous post:
"My thoughts, my challenge, then in this collaboration is how, I wonder would the idea of not having possessions be expressed in something that is made specifically to possess?" 
So the question arose; indeed do we posses objects, especially art, or is part always only owned by the creator. When I create something it comes from within me, very often very intuitive, even for commissioned items. Of course I create to sell, simple cause one needs to life and cause one cannot store all, at least that is how I feel. I need to create and I'm very happy if my creations find loving new homes. I also find that some items need to spend longer near me before I can let them go and some I decide to keep anyway. What happens once the a creation is sold; it's starts a new life at a new house, new stories. I guess in a way part of all my creations stays with me, their history, what they meant to me.

This all interlinks with the idea that started forming in my head for the first bowl. As mentioned in previous posts I came to the conclusion that my first line of thought was not going anywhere and was too dark. I had only realised this when I looked back at the pictures we had chosen as our starting point. Butterflies, light and air was were I wanted to go with the first bowl. Than I read Shauna's post and what better to capture the feeling of not possessing possessions than a butterfly. It all started to connect. I find it very curious to see how our (Shauna and mine) thoughts run along the same lines somehow.

first story-crafter bowl in the making

Last Monday evening I had time to start working on the bowl and while driving to my ceramics group meeting the idea formed more clearly. I had a practical problem I want my bowls to fit in the nice boxes I have made espacially by fair trade in Nepal and a swarm of butterflies is hard to capture in there. Now you say, "Hey girl, think outside the box." But no, don't want to that that, the box is an extra challenge, which will bring another good idea, just have to wait for it to surface. And it did, driving in the car, I thought of a way :-) I'll experiment now to see how I can make it work, but finally the first step is taken, the first bowl emerging.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Today was a day when none of us felt like leaving the house. That's how it started.

Instead, we lay around - in bed - and read.

I finished Emma Donoghue's Room (highly recommended, by the way) and my daughter read some more of The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton whose books I used to read as a child. A thread was knitting, I thought, a thread was creating something other than what it normally does.

It was a day that started in a lazy way but the slowness prompted a frenzy of movment.

The movement involved clearing out two bookshelves and a box full of miscellanous stuff. A black bag was filled with books no longer used or not loved enough for a second or third read. Old colouring books and school reports were rediscovered.
There was a joy in this.
There was a newness to it, too.
And nothing was called rubbish: these will be passed on through a local charity shop or recycled along with rough drafts of my stories.

We relieved ourselves of a bag-full of possessions like dust from a paino.

Our tiredness seemed to vanish so we cycled in the cold air up the tree-lined avenue to Castletown House - Ireland's largest and earliest Palladian style house. http://www.castletownhouse.ie/

We zoomed past families with dogs, children and grandmothers; all 'taking in the fresh air'; all hoping for some sort of renewal of energy. We didn't stop to take in the views; we kept going, home, home again for some further expression.

My daughter sat down with a hot chocolate and started drawing.

I started writing a story entitled "Possessions", prompted, partly by our blog here, partly by the feeling of things shifting and moving today, partly because it is the end of the first month in a new year.

It is, of course, also about how possessions are held; how they are kept; what value we assign to them. In my story, the main character has just attempted suicide and is not permitted to have any possessions. His clothes are itemised in his notes and are stored in a bag. His notes state:
  • one pair of blue jeans;
  • one navy heavy cotton hooded jumper;
  • one white tee-shirt;
  • one pair of grey underpants;
  • one pair of white socks;
  • one right and one left of black runners;
  • one wrist-watch with a worn tan leather strap.
  • No valuables on person.
My thoughts, my challenge, then in this collaboration is how, I wonder would the idea of not having possessions be expressed in something that is made specifically to possess?
A bowl.
A story.
Can we,
* do we *
possess them?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A reply and influence of the seasons.

I wrote an e-mail to Shauna in reply to her previous blog post. But we both agreed it would be better to post it here, as that really is the point of this blog. If you want to read the post I'm replying too first, go here.

"I think it is good! I like the idea of collecting and people do use bowls often to collect bits and bobs. Even if my bowls are not really meant for this, the story is there and linking it all.

Funny how we both were drawn towards the feelings typical of this season. The story tellers/mummers only come out in this period as well if I understood well. When I looked at our 'starting' picture I thought for me I'm not going in the right direction with the baskets and the mummers, too dark, compared to all the sunshine in the pictures. I was actually surprised to see so much sunshine in there, as if we somehow forget the summer once it is winter. In Dutch we have a saying "If it left the eye,it let the heart too." I might have to write this down in a blog to make that next step :-)"

Reflecting further on why I had forgotten about the sunshine is maybe cause the wicker goat on which I had focused was in a dark shaded sport in a wooded area of the park. Or maybe I focused on this because it suited the time of year and the relating state of mind......