“Often, stepping into another artists’ home is like a reassuring brush with the truth that we’re not the crazy ones; that it’s the rest of the aesthetically bankrupt world that’s got it wrong. I love that.” – Scott Cooper reflecting on his visit to Michael Kline’s
There is so much for me to love about these pots pictured above! They have been in my life for so long that they are unquestioned companions of my waking hours. They are part of my life almost like a sort of relation. My clay brothers and sisters.
Pots can be like that. Many art objects and ideas can. They are more than just anonymous furniture. They are not simply props. They are characters. They are not simply acted upon. They are acted with. They are personality driven agents with their own stories to tell. And they make a difference in our lives: A favorite book whose edges are worn and cover tattered from the many times you carried it with you to coffee shops, on camping trips, and paged through it on lazy afternoons…. A movie so ingrained in your memory that you can quote all the lines…. An idea that becomes internalized and changes how we see the world…. The song that was playing when you met your future husband or wife…. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
These are the kinds of things we choose to surround ourselves with. Sometimes pristine, but all eventually worn and showing the signs of a life well lived, through hardships and joys…..
Some survive us, others do not. But how is it possible that love, our most perfect virtue, can involve things that don’t last, and which in themselves are not perfect? Isn’t the perfection of love diluted by the imperfect object of love? Like trying to bake a perfect cake with imperfect ingredients? Are these imperfect things the weak links that dissolve the chain? Is love something ‘pure’ that is only contaminated by the broken and flawed real world bits? Is it?
As Robin Williams’ character tells it, its how we feel about the imperfections, the idiosyncrasies, that shows we are in love. And this means that love is sometimes at odds with the notion of perfection. Not ‘love’ as an idealized or superficial infatuation, but something deep and abiding. Something personal. Whoever said “love is blind” was probably blind. But not from love….
There is a difference between seeing someone as a person and only seeing their parts. The person includes all the foibles, all the mistakes, all the farts in the night. If we love the person its not exactly despite all the messy bits. If our love is not conflicted then we must make peace with the whole person. And this despite the reality that there are always surprises and the mystery continues to unfold…. By all means, love the parts, but don’t forget to love the person too.
Its really the idea of perfection that betrays us. It sets up unrealistic expectations. The idea of perfection only holds water in small bits. The larger and more complex they are the less perfect they seem. Perfection is mostly a fantasy. Its a noble idea that has few if any members. And it asks us to ignore or psychically amputate the less perfect real world parts. In other words, its sort of a mutilation. How can love be something that asks that of us?
In fact, I’d almost say that an idealized ‘perfection’ and ‘love’ rarely belong in the same sentence. Maybe just in romantic poetry…. Its as if from ‘love’, ‘ perfection’, and ‘human’ we can have any two together, but never actually all three at once. ‘Human + love’ excludes perfection, ‘human + perfection’ excludes love, ‘love + perfection’ excludes human…. Just think about it for a while….
As the Robin Williams character says it, “You’re not perfect sport. And let me save you the suspense. This girl you met, she isn’t perfect either, but the question is whether or not you are perfect for each other”
And maybe so it is with pots. To truly love a pot you need to be so intimate with it that all those little idiosyncrasies are cherished in their own right. They are not ‘flaws’. They are not mistakes. We don’t love these pots despite those qualities. Rather, those qualities are part of what we love. Its the whole package, warts and all. Farting in our sleep.
And so, you can usually tell a pot that has been adored by the rough edges, by the worn surfaces and banged up shape it is in. Glued back together and strapped with duct tape. Kept in use by any means necessary. Not discarded because of some superficial ‘flaw’. These are the marks of a life well lived. They are its battle scars. The scraped knees. The bruises and cuts. Pots earn these marks as the proof of their place in our lives. And if we hide them away because they are ‘too precious’ to use, doesn’t that mean we only love these pots at a distance? Is that really a true love? Or is it like an infatuation with an unapproachable celebrity? Aloof and uncaring? Doesn’t love require at least a little ‘mixing it up’?
Here are some of the pots I truly love, a plate by Ron Meyers, and a cup and teabowl by Michael Simon. Both were my teachers at an early point in my career, and I cherish the pot in part for the story it has to tell.
Here are some of the little farts that are a part of what I love:
Make beauty real!