May 9, 2014 Connie Matisse
In late November, 2010, after a year of building the kiln shed and kiln, outfitting the workshop, sourcing materials, and banging his head against the wall, Alex finally stuck his hands deep in clay to turn the first pots made in freshly founded East Fork Pottery. The workshop felt very different then. For a few hours a day, I would plod up the hill through heavy snow, perch on a pile of tarp-covered clay and read the Harry Potter series aloud - with voices - while Alex recreated the shapes of his teachers and Zuma sawed logs by the fire. Too soon, though, I'd say goodbye to drive to Asheville where I worked as a waitress five nights a week. I drove home on icy roads around midnight, shivering and sleepy. Half the time, the little light outside the workshop would still be lit and I could see, through snow and foggy windowpanes, Alex at his wheel, still, with heavy eyes. In bed, we'd look up at the cobwebs on our bead-board ceiling and think: How did we get here? Or sometimes, What were we thinking?
It was a sacred and magical time, but a lonely one, too.
Lately, the air feels lighter. On Wednesday, Alex tended to four boards of his prematurely drying pitchers while John filled the surfaces of his own with explosive, joyous patterns. Will Dix was priming and polishing a freshly unloaded kiln full of porcelain lights. Cory Sizemore, weed-whacker and wood-stacker extraordinaire, gave the place a much needed spruce-up. Zuma still sawed logs. I plodded up the hill but this time opened the door to a cacophony of giggles (from Alex) and guffaws (from John), a result - most likely - of a joke understood only by fourteen year old boys and the adult men they become*. Everyone takes turn playing D.J., and the boys are kind not to fuss when Alex puts on choral chanting - again. The changing season shepherds small flocks of friends, fellow potters and pottery lovers to our small corner of the world and everyone who passes through breathes new and sustaining life into our landscape, which feels more fertile day by day.
Somehow, work gets done. More, it seems, than when Alex's only distractions were the demons in his own head.
Not just more work, but better work, too. Alex, John and everyone who has come to work adds to this growing, forward moving energy - challenging, hassling, encouraging and, most importantly, celebrating each other and the pots they make.
At night, Alex and I still sometimes ask: How did we get here? but with much less uncertainty and much more gratitude.
*The workshop favorite right now involves a diarrhea-afflicted elephant.